Gilad had written two novels that were published in more than twenty languages.
Guide to the Perplexed by Gilad Atzmon (Serpent’s Tail
The year is 2052, and the state of Israel has been defunct for forty years. The majority of its citizens have become refugees overseas. In order to provide Israel with a decent burlal, the German Institute for the Documentation of Zion is established, and among its archives is the autobiography of one Gunther Wunker, an ex-Israeil. Gunther Wunker is the father of Peepology - a philosophy which sees all politics as a form of masturbation. He is also a committed onanist and holder of strong anti-Zlonist views. Guide to the Perplexed tells Gunter's life story - a hilarious romp through sexual frustration, academic parody and global politics. Witty, provocative and controversial, Guide to the Perplexed is a darkly comic take on contemporary Israel.
My One and Only Love by Gilad Atzmon (Saqi Books 2004)
Danny Zilber is a world-acclaimed trumpet player. A constant procession of women traipse through his dressing room, yet none can satisfy his need for love. Until, that is, an encounter with a mysterious woman who leaves just as quickly as she drops her panties ...
Murder, sexual manipulation, viral infection, the abduction of Nazis - these are just some of the means Danny's manager and his compatriots employ in order to safeguard the security of Israel and propagate German guilt. Meanwhile Danny holds dear the sole memento he has of that fateful meeting - the brassiere his 'one and only' left behind.
Veering from the ridiculous to the sublimely funny, My One and Only Love is a scathingly comic take on Zionist politics and Israeli espionage.
‘A biting satire on Jewish identity, Zionist politics and sex.’ The Observer
‘A fusion of anti-Israeli conspiracy theory and adolescent sexual farce – Mordechai Vanunu meets ‘American Pie’ – which involves crynogenically maintained war criminals, Mossad agents, and a trumpeter who can bring women to orgasm just by playing a single note.’ Time Out
‘A blackly comic satire about a Jewish jazz trumpeter caught up in the world of Israeli espionage.’ The Bookseller
'It is a cue to a remarkable romp that scarcely draws a breath from beginning to .....It’s so good it will probably be banned in Israel'. Jazzwise
‘Catch 22 meets Only Fools and Horses ... ‘dark humour’ isn't nearly strong enough to describe the distorted world that Atzmon portrays and mercilessly satirises.’ Jazz Review
‘A panoply of convincing, crazed and comic voices. A dramatic and entertaining satire and a welcome left-field look at Israeli self-identity.’ Nicolas Blincoe
‘A seriously funny writer and the wittiest musician since Ronnie Scott … We’re lucky Gilad Atzmon is around.’ Robert Wyatt
'A great new literary event – a hilarious book by Gilad Atzmon My One and Only Love is published. I had a pleasure to read it earlier and was absolutely flabbergasted – Gilad produces such flights of imagination that very few writers are able to. It is a funny book, telling of a story of an imaginary Israeli music band roving around the world, smuggling nuclear bombs and captive Nazis in their double violin cases. already (expectedly) attacked by usual suspects'. Israel Shamir
'I couldn't put it down. It's an irreverent, funny, at times tender send-up of Zionism, the notion of Jewish exceptionalism, Israel's spy apparatus, and its use and abuse of the Jewish holocaust. And more'. Jeffrey Blankfort
Gilad Atzmon's A Guide to the Perplexed is a debut novel with an excess of style and smut, says Daren King
Saturday January 25, 2003
A Guide to the Perplexed
by Gilad Atzmon
157pp, Serpent's Tail, £7.99
"What is it in Jews that paralyses their brains and turns them into imbeciles when they are gathered together?" asks the fictional preface to this provocative debut novel from Gilad Atzmon. The remainder of the book is presented as a historic document, the journal of one Professor Gunther Wünker, supposedly written in 2031, following an imagined downfall of the state of Israel. Like Atzmon, Gunther is a Jew who becomes a vehement anti-Zionist after his experiences in the Israeli National Service.
Gunther was named by his grandfather, whose "appreciation and admiration of German culture were boundless". Mocked and derided by all around him, Gunther spends his youth deeply resenting his bogus Aryan origins. "No five-year-old can be expected to walk the streets of Israel bearing the name of a German rocket scientist," he
tells us. Gunther longs to turn himself into an "undiluted, thoroughbred native", and vows to die for the Israeli cause. Only when he reaches the front line does he discover that he is "the most scared-shitless coward on earth".
The simplest way out of the army, we learn, is via the mental health officer's room, by turning your front trouser pockets inside out, unzipping your flies, pulling out your penis and claiming to be an elephant. But the elephant routine isn't for Gunther. Instead, he sets his weapon to automatic and shoots himself in the foot. A free man once again, Gunther decides that he needs to "tour other worlds, chase distant women".
Having been raised on his grandfather's German pornographic magazines, it is no surprise that Gunther opts for Germany. Once there, he finds most doors wide open to him - partly because he is now quite rich, having written a book on "the psychology of voyeurism (peepology)", but also, he muses, because he survived the ovens, and thus arouses "feelings of spontaneous remorse".
Gunther is not the most likeable of narrators. "I noticed then that the fatter the woman, the stronger her impulse to poke her proboscis into things that don't concern her," he tells us. Atzmon's sexual metaphors are rather confused. Gunther notes at one point that excess of libido led him to "identify with the plight of the Palestinian people". Peepology could be something to do with the Jew as outsider, or colonialism as masturbation, or something else entirely. But while it is odd to mix knob gags with highly serious assertions - that the Israelis long ago repressed a dangerous obsession with all things German, for example - it works, because Atzmon writes with so much style and his gags are so hilarious.
· Daren King is the author of Boxy an Star (Abacus)
To Buy Gilad's book and albums on-line
A GUIDE TO THE PERPLEXED
Gilad Atzmon (Serpent's Tail, 7.99)
Atzmon is the best jazz saxophonist in Britain, and his complex debut novel is the literary equivalent of one of his scintillating solos. A Guide...is set in a future in which Israel has been replaced, once more, by a state called Palestine. (A goal which Israeli-born Atzmon actually supports). It takes the form of a memoir composed by Professor Gunther Wunker for the German Institute for the Documentation of Zion. Wunker starts by documenting his grandfather's restless attempts to shag ex-pat German women in 1930s Palestine, after he has fled there from Nazi Germany. Gunther inherits grandpa's predilection. Wunker codifies the dualisms (and duels) which
inform his own tortuous sexual relationships as the misanthropic (and borderline misogynistic) philosophy of Peepology - a satirical mirror of Guy Debord's situationism, and Marxist theories of alienation - while his stint in the Israeli military precipitates his anti-Zionism. If this sounds overly grim and abstruse, Atzmon infuses the whole with wit worthy of Heller, Roth and fellow musician-novelist Richard Hell. Required reading for 'the chosen' and goyim alike.
A Guide to the Perplexed by Gilad Atzmon
Reviewed in Time Out by John Lewis
"The Jewish diaspora has produced Marx, Freud, Einstein and Gershwin: the Jewish state, in its 50-odd years of existence has given us Uri Geller. This talent deficit acts as the starting point for Gilad Atzmon's debut novel. Atzmon is usually described as 'a self-loathing Jew' by Zionists, something he wears as a badge of pride. Born and raised in Israel and now resident in London, he's best known as a fine musician and record producer, but has emerged as a prominent critic of Israel. A Guide to the Perplexed is presented as the memoirs of 'Gunther Wünker', a sex-obsessed Israeli academic who moves to Germany where he pioneers 'peepology', a science of
voyeurism (a piss-take of wanky literary theory). A further postmodern conceit is that Wünker's memoirs are framed as a historical document, being analysed by students of Zionism in the year 2052: shortly after Wünker's death, and 40 years after the end of the 'historical calamity' of the Jewish state. "At its best, A Guide to the Perplexed, is a hilarious satire on modern Israel (the narrator despises the 'sandal-wearing' Israeli left even more than the 'subhuman rightwing hooligans' in charge today). It also serves as a taboo-busting treatise on the effect of diaspora on art, science, sexuality and racial identity. this is a fascinating, ugly, hilarious and bonkers book."
Time Out, 6th November 2002
THE MORNING STAR
A Guide to the Perplexed
by Gilad Atzmon
Serpent1s Tail, £7.99
Now, this reviewer is much more accustomed to listening and grooving to the sounds of Gilad Atzmon1s alto or soprano saxophone than he is to reading his words.
Atzmon is the Israeli jazzman who abhors his country1s trespass over Palestine and who dedicates his startling and brilliant music to those who prosecute the intifada and resist the Israeli occupation every day of their lives. The jazz lover would know, from Atzmon1s witty introductions to his musical performances, that he has more than the conventional talent for satire, but need to read A Guide to the Perplexed to realise its full Swiftian force. Imagine. It is some 40 years since the state of Israel has been obliterated and a new institute has been established to record its history and the ideas and politics which dominated it and finally secured its destruction. A key text in the Institute1s archives is the journal of one Gunther Wunker. Wunker tells the story of his life in the last years of Israel1s existence, during a critical
period when its people 3and I among them, were adept at ignoring painful reality in a systematic way.2 He exposes his zany life in the Israeli Defence Force, how his
super-patriotism and fantasies that he was 3a lieutenant general in the victorious zionist army2 became completely undermined by the realisation of his chronic cowardice. Wunker1s huge sexual appetite and fascination for teutonic women takes him to Germany, where he develops a new scholarly discipline of voyeurism Ð 3how to establish a civil society, based on equality by means of the mirror of peepology.2 His best-selling book, Gunther1s Guide to the Voyeur, takes Germany by storm, as its author 3realised that the fabric of our lives has turned into a wank, a market-culture of self-release.2 Meanwhile, Wunker observes that his 3beloved nation2 is lurching on 3a zigzag course towards certain annihilation.2 He asks the questions about its true raison d1etre. 3What1s the point of planting the West in the East?2 is the theme of his interrogation. 3What reason could there be for re-inventing America in a place where Niagara1 means a flushing toilet? Why install the poetic dream of a new Middle East and invest in it wealth and prodigious effort, when, for the price of an air ticket, you can travel straight to the heart of the dream?2
For Wunker, Israel becomes, essentially, a theme park of the US in a land belonging to others. As Wunker seeks to employ his 3peepological research2 to trace the source of the self-lie that is Israel. It becomes the most tragic peep show of all. From Germany, Wunker beholds, with a scathing irony, the crowds of his bitter
ex-compatriots thronging into Germany, once the country of their agony. And now, as a celebrated academic, he is invited to a conference in his former nation to mark the quarter-centenary of the foundation of the State of Palestine. He finds a community 3intent on bringing about a civil revolution, forging an egalitarian society in which all the different races could live together in mutual respect.2 Something indeed different from the place he remembers as a precocious boy. A Guide to the Perplexed is part white-hot satire, part uproarious farce, part sheer extravagance with language and ideas and part political testimony of anatomisation and no
little hope. It is best read next to a stereo with Atzmon's horn soaring in the foreground. Try his album Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble as a prime
accompaniment. It makes the book move with even more indignation and verve.
You Must Leave Home, Again
Gilad Atzmon's "A Guide to the Perplexed"
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
Gilad Atzmon is an exile, a Jewish refugee, compelled to flee his homeland for friendlier terrain. He emigrated not from Europe or the American South, but from Israel itself. That's what compulsory service in the Israeli military can do: turn you into a martyr, a killer or a refusenik.
A couple of years in the Israeli army was enough to open Atzmon's eyes to the ongoing tragedy of the Occupation and also to Israel's steady transformation into a militarized state controlled by coterie of religious extremists. So Atzmon left a confirmed anti-Zionist. He ended up in London, where he has flourished, as a leading writer on the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. Last year Atzmon became a British citizen, which he tells me is "not something to be proud of in the age of Blair."
Atzmon is also one of the most gifted jazz musicians in Europe, making his mark first in Ian Dury's band The Blockheads. But his recent recordings with his own band, Orient House Ensemble, are exquisite. His new cd, Exile, is a rich and demanding blend of post-bop jazz livened with a Middle Eastern flavor, where Atzmon's soprano sax blends with the eerie keening of the gifted Palestinian singer Reem Kelani. The result is reminiscent of Coltrane's A Love Supreme and multi-ethnic musical excursions of Yusef Lateef: in other words, challenging and innovative jazz riding on top of a radical political consciousness. The album is dedicated to the Palestinian
people and their right to return to their homeland.
Gunther Wunker, the central character in his scabrous first novel, A Guide to the Perplexed, is a lot like Atzmon, although he follows a symbolic different itinerary: he evacuates Israel for Germany, "the answer to all my needseverything my homeland aspired to be but never was". The diaspora running in reverse.
A Guide to the Perplexed is a vividly written satire, infused with a ribald sense of humor and an unsparing critique of the incendiary political cauldron of the Mideast. The novel is a heady mix of Rothian sex romps, ruminations on the nature of identity, and bizarre escapades through the tangled nature of political and military bureaucracies that are worthy of Joseph Heller.
The story, which takes the form a journal written by the aging and perhaps slightly doughty Gunther, is powered by a narrative voice as cocky, relentless and fractured as a Charlie Parker solo.
The novel opens in the year 2052. Israel has been defunct for 40 years, replaced by a Palestinian state striving for the kind of assimilated population Israel violently resisted. German historians at the Institution for the Documentation of Zion discover a memoir written by Wunker (named by his Jewish grandfather after a German rocket engineer), detailing his alienation from Israel and rise to fame as a "peepologist," a kind of professional voyeur.
At one level, of course, the Gunther is simply a connoisseur of peep shows and there are plenty of sexual escapades to move things along in this novel. Gunther develops a particular fascination for German women because "they don't compromise, they never give up on their libido." He finds that German women are drawn to him, not because of any sexual mystique on his part, but simply because his family "survived the ovens."
But Dr. Peep is also an outsider, capable of peering back on his homeland through an exile's peephole in "the ramshackle wall [Israel built] to keep at bay the dark reality materializing before their eyes."
Gunther titles his manuscript, A Guide to the Perplexed: the perplexed being "the unthinking Chosen" who "cling to clods of earth that don't belong to them." He is reared on the thanatic fantasies of Israeli militarism "dedicated to heroic death on the battlefield". Naturally, young Gunther is obsessed with the Israeli military and developed "a powerful urge to die in Israeli war". The point is well made: Israeli youth are conditioned to embrace patriotic death with the same enthusiasm as a suicide bomber from Hamas. In the Zionist state, "dying on the altar of history" is promoted as the height of patriotic achievement. Israeli wives, Wunker observes, are
selected on their suitability as potential widows, whose main role is to "perpetuate the memory of slain soldiers."
But a few days in the "absurd, strident, dictatorial morass of the Army" are all it takes for Wunker to realize that he is "the most scared-shitless coward on Earth." He sees his best friend, Alberto, dissolve into recon unit called the forgetting squad, a group of "elite amnesiacs." When Alberto is killed, even his commanding officer can't remember why or even how he died.
This is the Catch-22 logic of life in the Israeli National Service: in order to survive you must forget why you are there. "The army was perceived as such an absurd organization that as a means of forging within it an imaginative, critical, and creative element, men had to be trained in anti-military thinking to the point of revolutionary stupidity."
At a loss to get out, he finally shoots himself in the foot during a battle, but his yelps of pain are mistaken by his fellow soldiers as a cry to attack. Naturally, he becomes a national hero, especially to Israeli "women of the Left, who have a poetic compassion for war causalities: it makes them horny as hell."
So Gunther rejects the Army for a "priapic campaign for peace." It is as a sexual outsider that he first begins to "identify with the plight of the Palestinian people." Eventually, Gunther achieves a level of international fame as a peepologist. He even becomes something of a pop political advisor and dispenses advice to Clinton in his time of trauma. "Bill my old friend," Gunther counsels the priapic prez. "Go on sliding cigars up arseholes. Without knowing it you have acquired a permanent place in the mythology of sexual relations. We understand where you're at and we identify with your needs." Sydney Blumenthal couldn't have put it any more succinctly.
Like Norman Finkelstein, Atzmon abhors the ways in which the Holocaust is highjacked for nefarious political purposes. The novel excoriates the commercialization of the Holocaust, suggesting that such uses amount to a trivialization of one of history's greatest horrors. Atzmon also argues that the Holocaust is invoked as a kind of reflexive propaganda designed to shield the Zionist state from responsibility for any transgression against Palestinians. Early in the novel, Gunther's grandfather warns him that "There no business like Shoah business."
Wunker comes to see Israel as a death obsessed culture, populated by "bereavement freaks" and "professional victims", where the pain of the Palestinians is seen as "an economic asset" and the "death business is a national sport." Every military victory, Wunker comes to conclude, is in fact a defeat, leading the Zionist state toward the terminal fulfillment of the national myth of Masada.
Atzmon's novel then serves as a final wake-up call to other Israeli intellectuals who must come to terms with being aliens in another people's land. The stakes are incredibly high and the unsettling subject matter could've made for a very hard and somber reading experience. But Atzmon writes with verve and wit. It's a deliriously exhilerating read. Like the best satire and the most profound jazz, A Guide to the Perplexed is painful, but it goes down easy.
Jeffrey St. Clair is author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature (Common Courage Press) and coeditor, with Alexander Cockburn, of The Politics of Anti-Semitism (AK Press). Both books will be published in October.
A SLAUGTHERHOUSE FOR SACRED COWS- Yediot Acharonot
This book will not leave you unmoved. Conservatives will hate it, politicians will want it burned and angry young people may turn it into a manifesto. "A state that is supported solely by its force will eventually become a Stalinistic USSR." said Natan Zach last week and there are indeed people who claim that Israel is just a short episode in Jewish life. There are some who will be sad about this and some that won't. In my opinion a state that brings death to five small Palestinian children and doesn't even apologise but just offers light condolences may not deserve to exist.
But Gilad Atzmon doesn't enter into this debate, he simply starts from the next stage. His futuristic fiction is published in 2052, 40 years after the state of Israel passed away and the majority of its Jewish citizens have turned into (arrogant and repulsive) refugees overseas. In order to provide Israel with a decent burial an institute for the Documentation of Zion was established. It took it upon itself to publish the autobiography of Gunther Wanker, an ex-Israeli, and his life story takes up most of the book. This is a story of unfulfilled love for the army, for the state, for women and a story of continuous escape from the army, from the
state, from women who are loaded with success and fame. There are certain similarities between Gunther and the author, an
ex-Israeli musician who is very successful in London. Sometimes the voices sound like a single voice: "Why install the poetic dream of a new Middle East and invest in it wealth and prodigious effort, when for the price of an air-ticket you can travel straight to the heart of the dream?"
"Half of our literature is full of fornication" declares Matan Zach. Guide to the Perplexed doesn't exclude itself from this genre. There is a lot of sex in this book but it is of a very unproductive kind: peeping, masturbating and the use of sex toys such as the inflatable doll Margarita. Professor Wanker gained his highly prestigious status from the invention of a new academic discipline - the science of peepology. His sparkling career can be read as a parody of some of the post-modern theories that are over-popular now: "Peepological research seeks to trace the roots of the self-lie with the aid of models of pornographic consumerism."
"Migrants have a wonderful ability to see things in their nakedness" - this is a beautiful truth and there are many of these in this book and it implies that Atzmon or Professor Wanker have the ability to develop a real slaughterhouse for sacred cows. The peace process is slaughtered here: "When they told me proudly about peace rallies and pilgrimages by the Polish ruling junta to various Arabic capitals, I perceived at once, as an international peepologist, that peace had become an object of collective onanism and would therefore never find release." He slaughters the Zionist left: "I was utterly disgusted by this provincial peace chase that pretends to be green, by the disciples of the proper rest from the factory producing the black box that religiously followed the empty Zionist left". He slaughters the fashionable journey to India, he slaughters the Shas rabbis, he even slaughters Rabin's assassination: "the legend told of a certain king, a commander of armies who though he had waged Wars all his life, was suddenly exposed, on the very day of his death, as a secret lover of peace.."
All is presented in very sharp, witty (some would say provocative) prose: "during the third decade of my life I was prone to
severe concentration problems. In retrospect, I sometimes thought it would have been a good move by my parents to send me, in my early childhood, during one of the summer vacations, to a concentration camp". This is a brilliant parody of all of us and behind this comedy hides our terrible tragedy.
MORE PRESS REVIEWS of the Hebrew edition:
"THE MALE COUNTER-ATTACK TO THE WOMB. Entertaining chauvinism... Atzmon's book is one of the funniest books I have come across. He manages to finely scrutinise male apathy and to come up with very accurate observations about men, women and unimportant subjects such as global politics" Ynet, Tel Aviv
"In his new book Guide to the Perplexed there is a brilliant hidden Nabokovian approach" Maariv
"The book is written in rich and clever Hebrew mixed with brilliant cynical humour" AL London
"Plucks on the most sensitive strings of Israeli society" Ha-ir
Sex, Politics and the Circumcised
A GUIDE TO THE PERPLEXED
By Gilad Atzmon, 2002
Translated from Hebrew by Philip Simpson
Available from www.serpentstail.com, $14
"When I walked in the world, among collapsing empires, I became aware that when self-mockery is absent, you may be sure that ruination is already upon you. Peoples bereft of humour, those lamenting the bitterness of their hate, those convinced they are the chosen ones, those indulging in mass lamentation - their end is at hand."
At first glance, this book looks like a pathetic, trashy novel about a Jewish man whose neurotic insecurity about his circumcision drives him to release his cultural rage through the conquest of German women. But by disguising his message as soft porn, the author gets away with saying what normally cannot be published: that the Zionist project is a failure. This political fiction novel foretells the demise of the State of Israel and promotes the idea of a new, culturally diverse, free Palestine. The story ends with unwanted, arrogant Israeli refugees flooding into Europe. Its callous, dark humor contains the machismo to make the anti-Zionist message
palatable to a society where sympathy for the Palestinian people is considered trite and socially unacceptable.
This is the story of an Israeli who is deeply ashamed of what his own people have done to destroy a civilization in the name of property ownership. It starts out with himself as a youth, self-deluded to think that he wishes to be martyred for the sake of the Zionist cause. Once on the battlefield, he freaks out and shoots himself in the foot and then has to deal with people thinking he is a war hero. Deeply disillusioned, he chooses to live in exile and pursue a career in "peepology" - the intellectual analyses of the deeper meanings of the porn industry. Floundering helplessly between the licentious and the divine, he comes to understand the root of pleasure-obsessed consumer culture as the sublimation of denial and anger into a zen experience of lust.
Buried beneath the sleaze, there are deep and endless philosophical speculations about the man/woman dialectic and the search for absolute love. "A Guide to the Perplexed" explores cultural identity in exile, the nihilism of the overfed, the collapse of the western democratic ideal, the existential fear of the absurd, and the subsequent withdrawal of society into collective schizophrenia. Ultimately, the philosophical framework of peepology, the idea that all of life is but a peepshow, exposes the end of Jewish history on a scriptural level. The Bible itself is broken down into "word as meaning in flux within the anecdotal context," therefore annihilating the basis for the historical claims of the "chosen people" and putting Judaism in direct confrontation with love itself.
The author, an Israeli expatriot residing in London, is best known as a be-bop jazz saxophonist and clarinet player. His band, the Orient House Ensemble, is promoting world peace by blending cultures through music.
I 'm delighted to say that some Zionists are also reading my book and have done me a honour of reviewing it badly
Tedious propaganda and butch
Hephzibah Anderson (Observer, also writers of the London Zionist right wing paper ' the Jewish Chronicle' )
Sunday October 20, 2002
The London-based Israeli jazzman Gilad Atzmon has no such qualms, and the result is undisguised propaganda with a side of tits and ass. A Guide to the Perplexed (Serpent's Tail £7.99, pp160) takes the form of the memoirs of one Gunther Wunker, leading expert in 'Peepology' (the science of peep-show voyeurism), and extremist anti-Zionist, written in the near future, some 40 years after the state of Israel has ceased to exist. Roping in 'statutory rape days' as organised by the Palestinian government to promote peace, the 'Shoah business', and 'concentration' camps for hyper-active Israelis, it no doubt aims at fashionable irreverence, but this novella's only remarkable trait is its tardis-like capacity for tedium.
Gunther is a character heavily influenced by Philip Roth's deliriously dirty old men, but while they are complex, compelling characters, and spout ideas that fairly sizzle, Prof Wunker is as inadequate on the page as he is in bed, and Atzmon's pompous philosophical debates are simply unconvincing, stifled as they are by self-hatred. When Gunther writes that the absence of self-mockery signals 'ruination', he is absolutely right, it's just that Gilad Atzmon is not very funny.
A Guide to the Perplexed, by Gilad Atzmon, trans. Philip Simpson
A crude - and rude - assault on Israel misfires
By Matthew J Reisz ( Independent, also writers for the 'Jewish Quarterly' )
07 December 2002
Peace in the Middle East, reflects Gunther Wunker in his memoir-within-a-novel, is "like the fantasy of the naked woman revealed through the glass of the peephole. As is known today to every peepologist worthy of the name, the worst fear of every peeper is realisation of the fantasy ... Mourners by candlelight [after Israeli prime minister Rabin's assassination] are just jerking off into the void."
Wunker (the name says it all) is born in Israel in the Sixties and soon starts fantasising about becoming "a decorated and irritating Israeli pioneer. I'd also developed a powerful urge to die in Israel's wars."
Experience of the army soon shatters his military ambitions, and sex makes him realise there are good reasons for staying alive. German women become a
particular passion: "There's nothing more wonderful than the gorgeous, full-bodied, ash-blonde Aryan chick, gagging for it."
Wunker realises that his "beloved homeland was lurching on a zigzag course towards ... annihilation". An ugly scene towards the end has him watch Israelis die, "dying without dignity, dying without honour. On one level I was amused, on another I was deeply grieved." His memoir and his papers appear with a Preface, dated 2052, by a professor from the German Institute for the Documentation of Zion - an organisation devoted to deciphering "the collective intellectual regression that led [Israel] to destruction".
As a viciously black satire on Israeli life, A Guide to the Perplexed is grandiose, childish and nasty, but with just enough connection with reality to give it a certain unsettling power. The original Hebrew edition was well reviewed in much of the liberal press in Israel, so who am I to be offended?
Unfortunately, Wunker also has a long series of dreary sexual adventures. He creates the science of voyeurism or "peepology" (cue feeble jokes about academia). We get to hear about his deep relationship with a plastic sex doll, and another with a woman so awash with vaginal juices that "making love to her without a lifeguard standing by was ... hazardous". He offers recipes for chopped liver and proposes "statutory rape-days" as a way of breaking the ice between Arabs and Jews.
Those who still thrill to the pages of Sixties underground "comix" may find some of this amusing, however laboured. Yet even those semi-sympathetic to its politics will find it cheap and "provocative" in the worst possible sense. Gilad Atzmon has been deservedly acclaimed as a master of the jazz saxophone and clarinet. His writing, alas, represents a completely false start.