Michael Lavigne’s first novel, “Not Me,” was the recipient of the Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award. His newest novel, “The Wanting,” will be published by Schocken Books on February 26. Win a free copy of “The Wanting” here, visit Michael on Facebook, and visit his official website here. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
In my first novel, I wrote from the point of view of a Nazi. In my new novel, “The Wanting,” I’ve taken on the persona of a suicide bomber from a village outside of Bethlehem. And while this character, Amir, is only one of three distinct voices in the book, his was the most painful to write and the most difficult to come to terms with. On the one hand, he murders scores of people — unconscionable and terrifying. On the other, he is also a person, not a monster. It is that person within him I was trying to access in my writing — but did I succeed? And should I have even tried?
My friend and fellow writer Jonathan Rosen (“Joy Comes in the Morning,” “The Life of the Skies”) has some doubts on this score. He wondered if I had created a moral equivalency between the victim (in this case the Russian Jewish immigrant, Roman Guttman) and the victimizer (Amir). I hope Jonathan won’t mind if I quote from his email:
…my fear [is] that Jewish imaginative sympathy sometimes runs the risk of secretly being narcissism disguised as empathy, as we project the better angels of our nature outward in the name of human understanding and then have a dialogue with ourselves. German Jews did it with Germans, as Gershom Scholem argued so persuasively about Buber — I and Thou is sometimes Me and Me.