Tel Aviv: perfect setting for a black murder – opinion

Imagine, for a second, that Tel Aviv is a real place.

If you understand what I mean, great; if not give me a minute.

Tel Aviv represents many different subjects for many different groups. If you’re Israeli, it could mean something like “High-tech, expensive, trendy liberal bubble.” If you are religious, it could mean irreligion. If you are a Zionist, it could mean “the original and indisputably Jewish site dug out of a marshy beach.” If you are a politically observant Jew on the left, the promise of the “New Talmud” may be kept. If you are the architect type, it is the White City. If you are a global citizen, Tel Aviv could be a gastronomic, cosmopolitan and gay-friendly oasis in the middle of one of the most conservative parts of the world. If you are anti-Zionist (or, as we could summarize fairly, anti-Semitic), it is the city-state protected by the Iron Dome from which the Jewish lobby influences the world. You get it. We could go on.

That is exactly the point. Tel Aviv is, all the time, a symbol. In that way, it is like Israel: constantly a synecdoche, an emblem, a shibboleth-site. And in that way, Tel Aviv, like Israel, is different from most places on Earth. It is impossible to imagine that Houston, Sydney, Accra, Buenos Aires, or Moscow, to name just a few, conjure up something close to the same cognitive meaning for so many people. It is true that those are cities where you can find iconic monuments and local foods, where certain lifestyles may be more famous than others, and where the climate is this or that and the people are more typical in this or that way. Each of the cities has unique distinctions. But they are, above all, real places where real people live.

So is Tel Aviv, and it is time to recognize it in our literature. And where real people live, they have real people’s lives and, in their cities, good and bad happen to them, they meet the beautiful and the ugly, and their sanctities and blasphemies come up close. In these cities, in any city, one of the evils that befall the residents, a nefarious blasphemy, is murder.

Israel police at the scene of the murder in Sderot (credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

A well-crafted murder mystery should tell you something about its setting. The story must reveal their place, the characters who live there, and the living conditions that led to the crime. The best murder mysteries are those that couldn’t have been developed anywhere else. They are necessarily linked to the crime scene.

For too long fiction set in Tel Aviv – I should say, more broadly, fiction set in Israel – has collapsed into the understandable but unmistakable habit of evoking the huge symbolisms of the place. If we look, for example, at novels written by Americans that are set in Israel (avoiding, for the moment, and for the sake of your sanity and mine, plunging into the thick waters of books written by Israelis), they can probably be divided into two large cubes.

FIRST, THERE ARE the works of biblical fiction. You know what I’m talking about: a famous biblical figure, or his less-heralded wife / sister / third child, gets a fascinating new gloss from a contemporary writer. Second, there is the fiction set in what might be called the heroic era of modern Israel, roughly 1948 to probably roughly the Yom Kippur War, when Israel was the obvious loser in all its external conflicts, when the fearless Israeli people were Celebrated worldwide for making deserts bloom in gardens, when, on a daily basis, the new and fragile Jewish state was performing miracle after miracle impossible to make the dreams of millennia come true. But sometime in the last 40 or 50 years, Israel became more inevitable. (Surely one may wonder how inevitable Israel really is, in the scheme of all things, especially given the nuclear aspirations of some of the madmen in the neighborhood, but we can also certainly agree that Israel is much more a given. than it was in 1951.)

More significantly, Israel became a more real place. The young people were more concerned with their future occupations than with an existential threat. Trade came to replace irrigation as a primary and perennial objective. Startups took the place in the popular imagination that kibbutzim once had. Everyday concerns, such as the price of milk and honey, outweighed concerns about how and where to restart milk and honey production. The cost of developing abandoned lots in Tel Aviv’s best neighborhoods replaced the discussion about mosquito-borne diseases in the city. This is the path of progress, at least if your country is doing well.

Little by little, and then once and for all, Tel Aviv became a real place. It continued to contain within its entire history, its limits and its symbolisms. But today’s Tel Aviv is a very real place where the monotony of real life, everyday comedy and tragedy is, and should be, more pronounced than an abstract narrative. It is a failure of the imagination to continue to insist on imagining Tel Aviv primarily as an urban magic pixie whose main job is to carry the fairy dust of Bauhausism, colonialism, or pioneerism.

And what kind of real place has Tel Aviv become? In the past 20 years, as Israel has grown into a rich country, the distillation of that wealth has appeared more visibly in Tel Aviv than anywhere else. High-tech, as that singular word smashup is pronounced on its streets, has created a huge influx in the city. Gleaming towers of glass and steel now sit right next to not only ramshackle buildings from the previous century, but also open garbage cans where passersby dump empty beer bottles and candy wrappers. Wig shop neighborhoods and schmatta shops above others with shared software development workspaces and boutique hotels. The rich and the poor, the fresh and the ramshackle, are closely and visibly united.

Not only that, but the diaspora has spread to nearby Tel Aviv locations, so you can listen to the music in Hebrew, English, French, Arabic, Russian, Persian, Italian, and other languages ​​spoken by residents and visitors. There are also hints of cosmopolitan dress styles, although perhaps less than what might be seen in other cities around the world. The city is teeming with young people, in search of action, hurrying past older couples bewildered and annoyed by the traffic and house prices that now dominate their once quiet city. The mood of the city is locally political: not a soul is happy with the garbage collection or the bloody rents; only who is to blame is disputed.

This is a real city, a real place. It’s tailor-made for a murder mystery.

THE BEST form of murder fiction, in my opinion, is noir. Noir is also, in my opinion, one of the three genuine American art forms (the others being jazz and its progeny and western film, and yes, we can meet for coffee and discuss that at another time). Practitioners of the art form now come from all over the world, but the essential elements have remained largely the same for the past 75 years. In almost all cases, the atmosphere of a city, of a suitable and textured city, is indispensable.

The basic promise of a noir, from Chandler, Cain, Hammett and Macdonald, is that an incorruptible detective, a man apart, travels through the visible and invisible miasma of the city, from the attics above to the garbage piles below. , from the enlightened ones. to the cowering, from the beautiful to the outcast, monomaniacally unfazed on his quest to find the killer himself and whoever might have put the killer to work. For this, the choice of the city is essential. You need a city big enough for the task. It must have great disparity in wealth, cultural diversity and tension, political intrigue, whether it be a core of virtuous ambition surrounded by an atmosphere of corruption or the other way around, and enough tempting but uncomfortable social mobility to make the effort – and the carnage to do so. just – it’s worth it. Perhaps most importantly, for the ingredients of the black murder mystery to be correct, the city must be going through a period of rapid and momentous change. Social, political and economic turmoil must be upon her.

For these requirements, I can’t think of anywhere on earth better than Tel Aviv. After all, it is a real moving place. Where you can easily imagine dreamers who come from all corners of the country and the planet, looking for their fortune and their future. And where you can easily imagine that lurking in its corners is the occasional infernal omen of the profane, aiming to turn it all off.

The writer is the author of HIP SET (2021), a black murder mystery set in Tel Aviv.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *