Falling Out of Time
David Grossman’s son Uri, a tank commander in the Israeli army, was killed during an unfortunate and unnecessary incursion into South Lebanon during another pointless Middle East war, a few weeks short of his 21st birthday.
Grossman, the celebrated author of both non-fiction and fiction, spoke out publicly against the Israeli offensive in the aftermath of his son’s death which, naturally and understandably, left himself, his wife and Uri’s siblings, devastated by the loss.
You can still Google Grossman’s touching and moving obituary to his son, and to do so is to witness the foundation of this quite remarkable pean to grief, to desolation and the lacerating legacy of bereavement, which took three years to complete.
In his novel, To the End of the Land, written before the events which foreshadow Falling Out of Time, a mother goes walkabout in an attempt to escape the disclosure of what she assumes will be the inevitable death of her son.
In Falling Out of Time, Grossman uses drama, poetry, prose, reportage, to recall the lives of bereaved parents undergoing a mini odyssey to reach out to their dead children.
At first it seems like a noble attempt by Grossman to encapsulate grief, the better to understand it, but inevitably the catharsis of writing distorts the perception of a life-altering act for someone so unexpectedly and tragically bereaved.
It is a most powerful book, almost a collection of anecdotal insights into the magnitude of love and loss, for what is one without the other, and Grossman’s skills as a poet and dramatist never waver even when the reader suspects – wrongly – that he may not have the stamina to see this through.
The writing, whilst dramatic, is rarely theatrical, and Grossman never abandons for effect the raison d’etre of his undertaking: can we overcome death and, perhaps entirely unrelated, can we reach out for the dead and free them, like Eurydice?
He explores this in a beautifully published work by Johnathan Cape with a walking wounded troupe of characters: Town Chronicler, Duke, Midwife, Centaur, Walking Man and others.
Grossman’s intention across 190 pages, an attempt to answer the above questions, and others, is a hymn to these characters, who find a solace of sorts in the communal act of breaching death’s hermetic separateness.
The solace, even though the dead are kept in storage by the gravitational effect of their world, is discovered time and again in Grossman’s storytelling and humanity in Falling Out of Time.
‘Sometimes, when we are
Together, your sorrow
Grips my sorrow,
My pain bleeds into yours
And suddenly the echo of
His mended, whole body
Comes from inside us,
And then one might briefly imagine –
He is here.’