Around April, I received a message from a young Israeli writer by the name of Itamar S.N. to review his recently published book NIV. What caught my attention was that the book was set in Israel and not only tried to capture the complexities of a gay relationship, but also reflected upon the difficulties and opposition that two lovers in a straight relationship face too.
There are two parallel stories running in the book. One, set in 2011 in Israel, is the story of Erez, a young artist and bar tender who falls in love with a man he meets at the bar he works; and the other story, set in 1914 around the time of World War I near the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, is the story of two young lovers Katya and Anush, one a Christian and another a Muslim.
Erez cannot resist the charm of Niv, who is a wealthy man, a connoisseur of art and also organises art exhibitions of his own. He recognizes the talent of Erez, but his interest extends beyond Erez’s paintings. Niv though is not all that uncomplicated. Brought up by conservative parents, he has always done what others expected out of him. This is the first time he was falling for a guy and letting himself be. But soon, Niv’s attempt at hiding their relationship begins to irk Erez.
Anush on the other hand is a simple muslim shepherd, whose daily routine involves taking the herd of sheep to the top of the mountain, where he sits all day long and plays his Duduk. He has an unexpected audience of a beautiful young girl named Katya one day, whose smile and face wouldn’t leave his thoughts. Love between them sprouts soon. But with the world engaged in a brutal war, the situations are not in favour of two young lovers, especially when they belong two different religions. With the war spreading across Europe, Katya has two options- either she marries Anush and stays back, or move with her family to safer place. The orthodox Muslim father of Anush will not accept a daughter-in-law of different faith. He decides to move with Katya, but finally cannot abandon his own family.
The author connects these two stories through the concept of incarnation. It is a love that bypasses time. Will the unfulfilled love of Anush and Katya finally be able to unite in the form of Erez and Niv? NIV also gives you a glimpse into the night life of Tel-Aviv- the parties and bars that the city is famous for; though it steers clear of the political turmoil that the country is embroiled in. But it is not the story of Erez and Niv that finally stays with you. It is the story of Anush and Katya that lingers on in your mind. The emotions and excitement of falling in love for the first time, unaware of the many challenges lying ahead, of the sexual tidings that goes inside two young bodies get beautifully portrayed in that story.
As his first book, NIV is a good start by Itamar that takes you through the complexities of love and reminds you no matter straight or gay, the path of love is never devoid of social challenges.