Two Parallel Universes, One March Towards Indpendence
By Ayelet Bender
A Pigeon and a Boy is a Middle Eastern influenced novel which contrasts two time periods (past and present) incidentally creating a Parallel Universe.
Meir Shalev uses strong symbolism in order to create an echo of a recurring concept in your mind throughout your reading of the book. His choice of symbolism, being a Pigeon, serves much historically as well as metaphorically. Although Shalev depicts many themes in this book, I would like to concentrate this review on Shalev's use of the Pigeon as a (somewhat silent) Protagonist.
The Pigeon (translates to Hebrew as "Yona", as does the Dove), is found in the Bible, as an important figure in Noah's Ark. Upon the corruption and complete washout of the world, Noah sends out a "Yona" to test if earth (or home) is ready to be lived on. Eventually, the pigeon comes back with a sign of life on earth; evidence of plantation.
In this case, the Pigeon serves as a messenger, a sign of continuance of earth, life, and a reminder of the necessity of love in a nation, as well as at home. In contrast, the Pigeon is also a symbol of love and marital bliss.
The novel is situated in Israel, and discusses of its history and its tough journey to Independence. This is the section of the book that occurs in the past tense.
"The Baby", having been robbed of any parental presence in his life, was brought up on a Kibbutz by his aunt and uncle. The Baby meets a Pigeon handler and seems to be magnetically attracted to the idea, and soon becomes one himself. The Pigeon being a symbol for marital bliss, seems to fill the void his parents left, due to the fact that it is something he had not really been exposed to in his tragically prematurely ended life. Pigeons seem to have replaced his parents presence in his life, creating a fake, ghost-like roof of marital bliss. When the Baby meets the Girl, they correspond via Pigeons, the Pigeons carrying the weight left by his parents. The Baby dies in the War of Independence in 1948. Love puts the brain into survival mode, causing us to reproduce in order to assure the continuance of our lineage. Shalev links the history of the Pigeon in Noah's Ark, to The Baby's last message, delivered by a Pigeon, to his lover (the Girl), however heartbreakingly differs from Noah's story, as he is not given the privilege to continue.
In parallel to the Baby's story, Yair was brought up in a home in which his mother suffered from lack of comfort, always longing to return to her home in Tel Aviv (Israel). It seems that Yair subconsciously ends up mirroring his mother's unhappiness, through his unhappy marriage to Liora. Yair's mother never obtained her own definition of home, as well as Yair; Liora is an American oriented girl, who robs Yair of his right to have the comfort of his home, to his own standards. This is an ironic juxtapose, seeing as Yair is a tour guide that specializes in bird watching.
As mentioned earlier, the Pigeon is a symbol of marital bliss, which are the cause of Yair's sufferings.
When he suffers the death of his Mother, he seems to finally be able to absorb the information portrayed through birds that he constantly preaches to others and put it to action. The Pigeon and his mother's death together seem to highlight this awareness to him, and us the reader, and clarify his route to a happier life in rebuilding his "home". The mother supplies Yair with the tools he needs to make his life right.
The Baby's story brings upon us a sad feeling, and yet the sadness is healed by the happy outcome to Yair's story.
Meir Shalev's technique of writing is like that of a Math teacher. He presents us with a mathematical equation, and teaches us the formula, going step by step, helping us to derive the information without it being fully presented to us.
With the echo of the Pigeons, we are able to extract different feelings and obtain more to his writing than just words, rather emotional remorse for the tragedy and true happiness for Yair; who seems to veil happiness upon the Baby's tragic ending. I truly felt that the Baby had vicariously lived and fulfilled his life through that of Yair. As well as a satisfying end to an emotionally climaxed book. A truly great read.
The Reading Israel Book Club's Book of the Month: A Pigeon and a Boy
Every month, the Reading Israel Book Club at Israel Forever brings you a new literary delight to grow your Israel connection through the written word.
We hope that you enjoy our selections and participate in discussion not only with your friends and family but with an international community of readers in our open discussion group on Facebook.