Itamar S.N: Niv
“Even this intervention is more than most people are allowed, but we must break the cycle.”
[…] Itamar S.N is a young Israeli writer, musician and columnist living in Tel Aviv, where the contemporary part of his novel, Niv, is set. This part involves the story of a highly talented but as yet undiscovered artist, Erez, who is working in a bar to earn a shekel while he paints his large canvasses at the back of a friend’s workshop.
Erez is 29 years old, gay but not actively so, preferring to give himself to his art. He does, however, have a close lesbian friend, Mickey, who is his muse and confidante. His life, though, is emotionally stunted, the main outlet for his affection seemingly being his two cats.
His eventual discovery by suave, urban sophisticate art dealer and connoisseur, Niv, turns both their lives upside down. Niv is 37, straight (or has always behaved as such and believed himself to be so), worldly and charismatic, but his attraction to Erez becomes a sexual and emotional one, with devastating crises of confidence leading to emotional breakdowns for both men.
So far so straightforward, in novelistic terms at least. But this story, set in the Israeli capital in 2011, is interspersed with another story set in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1914. This is the tale of love across the religious divide, between a 15 year-old Azeri Muslim goatherd, Anush, and his 14-going-on-15 year-old Armenian Christian girlfriend, Katya, at the time of the Armenian massacres.
In one sense both stories are, to a greater or lesser degree, about forbidden love. The gay storyline in modern Tel Aviv is hardly transgressive in its context but, for the older man, Niv, it nonetheless brings about a mental collapse when he realises that, behind the veneer of international jet-setting urbanity, he cannot face his family with the truth of his love for Erez.On the other hand, the potential for doomed Romeo and Juliet-style love between Anush and Katya is downplayed to the extent that her family accepts their relationship and his father is only really opposed (or so it transpires) because of the bitterness he harbours in his own soul for what he took to be the betrayal of his own beloved brother. When the truth becomes apparent, Anush’s father relents, though sadly too late. […]