JERICHO MOSAIC (1987) - Book 4 of the Jerusalem Quartet

American Hard Cover Edition
W.W. Norton & Co 1987
The distance from Jerusalem down to Jericho in the Jordan River valley is only about fifteen miles. From there up into the Moabite hills of Jordan is but another ten miles, distances a man can walk in one night. When adversaries live at such close quarters they affect each other in strange and unsuspected ways.

In 1959 an idealistic young Syrian businessman, Halim, forsakes success in Buenos Aires to return to the ancient land of his birth and help build the Arab revolution. In Damascus his reputation grows as an incorruptible visionary, the conscience of the Palestinian cause. But Halim is in fact an Iraqi Jew, Yossi, codenamed the Runner by the Mossad, Israel's secret intelligence service.
Meanwhile in Jericho, the oldest village on earth and an oasis of perpetual summer at the bottom of the Great Rift between Jerusalem and Damascus, a curious trio of wise men continue their forty-year game of backgammon in an orange grove, over arak and hashish, connecting life and history from many distant and not-so-distant eras:

Abu Musa, a jovial Arab patriarch and grower of fruit trees who rode with Lawrence of Arabia; Moses the Ethiopian, a gentle eunuch and monk who talks to God in Ge'ez and is the biggest man anyone has ever seen; and Bell, the legendary one-eyed English hermit of Jericho, a retired masterspy who operated out of Egypt during the Second World War. For nearly a quarter of a century the Runner's operation is an immense success, the most ambitious espionage penetration ever undertaken by the Mossad. Then with the onset of civil war in Lebanon, the Runner is recruited by the inspector general of Syrian intelligence to serve as his private informant in Beirut.

Cairo in the 1940s and Damascus in the 1960s and Beirut in the 1970s, Jerusalem for three thousand years and Jericho for ten thousand - the tale of the Runner is reflected in many mirrors as it pieces together the secret designs of illusion and reality in the Middle East, where the intrigue of causes and cultures is so intricate that the opposite of the apparent is often the truth.


"On both a human and historical level, Jericho Mosaic makes comprehensible, as no other recent book does, the history of the Middle East since the end of World War II. And that is only one of the novel's multitude of virtues .... Like Tolstoy, Whittemore shows us the relation between the large movements of history and their most ordinary human sources .... [with] his own idiosyncratic vision, one that enables us to see to the human center of history in a thoroughly original way. The final book in what is one of the most wonderful achievements in 20th-century literature....Without illusion, but with supreme intelligence and a generous heart, Whittemore shows us just how painful, beautiful, and surprising ... life's reversals can be, and how our struggles with ourselves and others can ultimately seem to change time itself."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Whittemore ... has not written a spy story, but a story about a spy. The Runner is a true Janus figure, facing both ways and showing a dozen different faces at different times, as well as feeling conflicting emotions at all times .... The scroll of complex contemporary Middle Eastern history that unrolls over the 40 years covered in Jericho Mosaic is nightmarish in its twists and complexities .... fun to read and provocative."
The New York Times

"As evocations of the historic places and the emotional climate of the Middle East, Whittemore's novels have few peers .... The story of an Israeli who becomes the most effective double agent in his country's espionage system is a classic tale of deception, but it is also a parable of what could occur if the people of those ancient lands could recognize the ties that unite them and cooperate to recognize the futility of war ... In setting his tale in Jericho, a crossroads throughout history, he creates metaphorical parallels to the mythical events of earlier times ….
Publishers Weekly

Reviews of Jericho Mosaic:
Introduction to the Old Earth Books edition by Jim Hougan
A Spy Saga Rich With Middle East History - by Jay Neugeboren
A Message of Mideast Hope - by Kathleen Christison
A Spy Divided - by Robert Elegant

< Nile Shadows / back to books >


©Anne Sydenham 2001-2016