TITLE: The Betrayers AUTHOR: David Bezmozgis 225 pages

The Betrayers is the third much-acclaimed book in David Bezmozgis’ relatively brief writing career.

 

Mark conliffe

 

The Betrayers is the third much-acclaimed book in David Bezmozgis’ relatively brief writing career. It was short-listed this year for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and his previous works — the novel The Free World (2011) and the collection Natasha and Other Stories (2004) — earned him impressive awards in a range of esteemed competitions. Each of these works showcases his precise, unassuming prose and his sensitive awareness of human thoughts and feelings.

They also reveal Bezmozgis’ interest in the immigrant experience, especially that of Soviet Jews as they wrestle with emotional and moral questions about how much to adopt their host culture and how much to maintain their traditional culture. And within the framework of these questions he depicts personal decisions that define characters’ experiences, paying special attention to simple acts of kindness and meanness, principle and amorality.

The Betrayers is set in Yalta and charts a decisive day in the life of Baruch Kotler, a Soviet Jewish dissident who immigrated to Israel and entered politics. Unwilling to back down from his challenging and honourable stand on West Bank settlements, Kotler earns the wrath of his political rivals, who make public his affair with a woman who is closer in age to Kotler’s daughter than she is to him. He flees Israel in the midst of this scandal and returns to the resort city he remembers from his childhood. While in Yalta Kotler encounters the very man who denounced him forty years earlier, the one time friend whose accusation sent Kotler to the Gulag.

This day is a decisive one for Kotler, because over its course he must consider the meaning of his actions most notably for his wife, who did all she could twenty-five years earlier to free him from the Gulag and get him to Israel; for his son, an Israeli soldier who is caught between following orders and following his own moral compass; and for his daughter, who considers herself a friend of Kotler’s mistress. What does his betrayal of their love and trust mean for him and them? And, what of those who have betrayed him and his trust — his one time friend and his political opponents? How should he respond to their actions?

In Baruch Kotler, Bezmozgis gives us a character whose tenacious commitment to principle is both his strength and his weakness. Leora, his mistress, reflects that, “her relationship with Kotler had been built upon a flawed premise. […] She had wanted her saint to also be a man.” A saint, she reasons, “loved the world more than any single person,” and in this conclusion Leora uncovers the noble priorities that guide Kotler’s life, but also that seem to separate that life from the everyday deeds and needs of those who are closest to him.

 

How should we regard Kotler’s moral priorities, his actions in stressful moments, his expressions of love and sacrifice? David Bezmozgis leads us to these questions delicately and pointedly in a novel that will stay with us for a long time.

 

 

Just Posted

Castlegar teens rescue man from river

Will Watt and Shay LaFayette helped save a fisherman from the Kootenay River.

Gas venting from tanker at Castlegar rail yard posed no danger: officials

Argon gas discharged from a CP tanker car on Friday, April 19.

Carfentanil found for first time in Castlegar

Killer opiod found in local illegal drug market

Rossland’s Seven Summits school gets grant to grow global presence

Centre for Learning hopes to triple the number of international students it has

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

WATCH: South Vancouver Island shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident, say police

One person in custody, another fled following shooting and crash on West Shore

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man accused in daughters’ murder

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Most Read