Dror Burstein’s Netanya is labeled a novel by the publishers, but it is not so easily characterized. It is something of a series: part meditation on the world around us by a person who was so obsessed with astronomy that he built a telescope himself as a teen, part meditation on atmospheric changes on earth, part memoir for an uncle killed in war when the author was young, part homage to a neighborhood where he grew up and his grandparents owned a hotel, and part a loving description of the author’s grandfather, a lover of literature who emigrated from Poland.
Do not be put off by this blend of reminiscence, fiction, and science: the author is a lover of art and gives lovely descriptions of his scenes. Every metaphor holds profound descriptive weight. In speaking of the use of a microscope, Burstein’s teacher says, “Perhaps it’s only we who can serve as go-between, translate from macro language to micro language.” This essayistic novel does just that, serving as a conduit between the mind of the author, lying on a bench on a beach, and the rest of the world in its fullness. In fact, the book’s ultimate sentence, “All of a sudden—reality,” could well describe the work as a whole: a sudden immersion into the reality of the thoughts of another, well done and fascinating.