During one of my recent library trips I happened to spot Yishai Sarid’s spy novel Limassol and was drawn to it for several reasons. One, upon inspection I noticed it was published by Europa Editions and I’ve had pretty good luck with one of their other titles, specifically Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous. Two, it’s a spy thriller and after enjoying John la Carre’s The Mission Song last year I was willing to read something else from that genre. Lastly, while I’ve read many books over the years by Israelis or about Israel and/or the Middle East, I’ve never read any Israeli fiction. So, I thought what the heck and decided to give Limassol a try. After finishing it a few days ago I’m glad I did. I found it to be a short, entertaining and gritty spy novel.
Published in late 2010 and written in the first person, it tells the story of an unnamed Israeli secret service officer and his mission to befriend an attractive Israeli writer and her long time friend Hani, a terminally ill Arab poet from Gaza. Posing as aspiring writer in need of private tutoring, he approaches the bohemian writer Daphna in hopes of gaining her trust and in the process that of her old friend Hani. The ultimate goal of course is to use Hani as an innocent pawn to lure his terrorist mastermind son Yotam back to Israel from his overseas hideout so Israel’s Mossad agents can kill him.
But only if it was that simple. Along the way, our narrator questions his mission, his motives and of course, like in many good spy novels, his loyalties. Just to keep things interesting Sarid throws in several other players into this twisted game including Daphna’s drug addicted junkie son, a murderous yet intellectually curious drug lord, our narrator’s fatherly superior, (a wounded veteran who starts each day with a morning devotional reading from the Talmud) and lastly his wife, a driven career woman and recent mother who has grown tired of being the long-suffering wife of an intelligence officer.
I enjoyed Sarid’s little spy thriller and after reading quite a bit of nonfiction over the last year I welcomed this detour from my usual reading fare. I also thought the novel touched on some of the vital issues lying at the heart of Israel’s soul, such as its relationship with the Palestinians, its quest for an enduring peace and lastly, what means should the nation employ in order to achieve peace and security.