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SUPERBOOK: Leon Uris? bestselling novel Exodus

Leon Uris? 1958 bestselling novel Exodus runs to 600 pages, has equalled the sales of Gone With The Wind and has been translated into 50 languages. His detailed chronicle of European Jewry from the turn of the century to the establishment of Israel in 1948 was distributed secretly in communist countries.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2006 16:25 IST

Exodus
Leon Uris
Price — Rs 350
Publication — Bantam Books

Leon Uris’ 1958 bestselling novel Exodus runs to 600 pages, has equalled the sales of Gone With The Wind and has been translated into 50 languages. His detailed chronicle of European Jewry from the turn of the century to the establishment of Israel in 1948 was distributed secretly in communist countries.

In his epic novel, Uris constructs an argument in favour of the state of Israel, laid out against 70 years’ worth rampant European anti-Semitism. The first segment recounts the Holocaust (first, in the eyes of a girl who escaped to Jew-friendly Denmark, and then in the eyes of an Auschwitz survivor).

The second part shows the seeds of modern Israel through a pair of mythic-quality Russian refugees who enter Palestine in the 1880s and begin transforming the soil. Then there is Palestine’s struggle under the suffocating British mandate, and nascent Israel’s miraculous victory over the various hostile Arab states.
Played out over the epic history is a storyline involving the Ben Canaan family, Kitty the American nurse, her surrogate Israeli daughter Karen, and Karen's rebellious boyfriend Dov. A lot has changed since 1948.

Israel was then associated with the political left, but not anymore. The plight of the Palestine Arabs who were induced out of their land by the war faring Arab states, however, has not been resolved. Those refugees are still right there, crammed along the Israeli borders in makeshift cities. The book presents a summary of this unconscionable situation, and just about every word is still true, 55 years later.

The pro-Israel strains of Exodus will probably now draw more cynicism than solidarity. There are more than a few passages that will cause modern readers to think “But it didn’t turn out that way, did it?”
However, even with these issues, Exodus is a powerful novel and in a historical sense a very important work, for it would influence American thinking on the subject of Zionism and Israel for decades to come. And when all is said and done, it’s still one helluva read.

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 16:25 IST