The Fig Tree is a tender book of true stories about family, about journeys, about home. Arnold Zable, bestselling author of Cafe Scheherazade, describes remarkable people struggling through tragic times and rejoicing in the unexpectedness of life itself.
Zable writes with wonderful feeling about the Greek villagers who made the long journey to and from Australia, about those lost in the Holocaust and postwar diaspora, about Jewish actors and writers who found new audiences in their adoptive country.
At the heart of this book is Zable’s understanding of our obligations to the wanderers among us, to the dispossessed and the stateless. He makes a gift of their stories in The Fig Tree, celebrating the common threads of humanity that bind us all.
‘The Holocaust and its manifold aftermaths is a literary seam in danger of being mined to exhaustion. But Zable’s heritage, replete with a strong Yiddish-Polish culture, is so rich, his approach so fresh, that his readers will follow him willingly…As we move from the Melbourne stories to the Greek relatives still on Ithaca, and the stories of Greeks and Jews in World War II, and back to the Yiddish theatre and Yiddish writers of pre-war Carlton, Zable is our unobtrusive guide, playing the mere recorder of other people’s stories. But working through each story are interlinking notions of refuge, of the wanderer (Odysseus, and obvious recurring figure), of home, of suffering and renewal. The master storyteller has done it again.’
‘While his heart is worn on his sleeve, Zable pushes sentimentality to the margins, in tonal word-portraits distinguished by the devices of traditional Yiddish storytelling. He employs subtle repetitions of formulas and paralleling of tales and of incidents to create a reverential mood underpinned by antiphonal echoes of observations on life by loved ancestors, poets and writers.’