In 1906 a young Englishwoman, a painter named Beatrice Campbell-Bennett, arrives in Palestine, intending to study and paint the flowers that are mentioned in the Old Testament. She is particularly interested in the mandrake, with which Leah bought a night of love with Jacob. Traveling with an Arab companion around the country, still under Ottoman rule, the Christian tourist becomes acquainted with everyday life in the Holy Land during the Jewish immigration
wave known as the 'Second Aliyah.' Combining fact and fiction in the form of diary entries and letters, the novel reveals the heroine's complex and unstable personality. It transpires that Beatrice's religiosity is bound up with her erotic attraction for Vanessa Stephen (Virginia Woolf's sister), and her life in the Bloomsbury Group. The Holy Land awakens her repressed passions and incipient madness, culminating in a double rape, once by an Arab in Nablus and once by a philandering Jew. Megged combines motifs from both the Old and the New Testaments with psychological insights and mythological patterns, unfolding a gripping, colorful tapestry of Palestine at the start of the century.
Mandrakes from the Holy Land was originally written in Hebrew (Duda`im Min Ha-Aretz Ha-Kedoshah) and was translated by Sondra Silverston.
About the Author
Aharon Megged came to Tel Aviv from Poland at the age of 6. He was a kibbutz member for 12 years, and then worked as a literary editor and journalist. Megged began publishing in 1938. He has served as the Israeli cultural attache in London, and was writer in residence at Haifa University and Oxford. Between '80-'87 he was the president of the Israeli center of PEN. His fiction has won numerous awards, including the French Wizo prize for Foiglman, the Bialik, Brenner, and Agnon Prizes, and most recently, the coveted Israel Prize of 2003. He lives in Tel Aviv.