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Tel Aviv: Perfect setting for a noir murder – opinion

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

If you already understand what I mean – excellent; If not give me a minute.

Tel Aviv represents a lot of different topics for a lot of different groups. If you’re Israeli, maybe that means something like “expensive high-tech liberal bubble”. If you are religious, it may indicate a lack of religion. If you are a Zionist, perhaps this means “the original and undisputed Jewish place hewn from the shores of a malaria swamp.” If you are a politically observant Jew, this may fulfill the promise of the “New Talmud.” If you’re an architect, this is the White City. If you are a global citizen, Tel Aviv may be an oasis, cosmopolitan, gay-friendly in the middle of one of the most conservative regions in the world. If you are anti-Zionist (or, as we can reasonably sum up, anti-Semitic), this is the city-state protected by the Iron Dome from which the Jewish lobby influences the world. Understanding. We could go on.

That’s exactly the point. Tel Aviv is, all the time, a symbol. In this way, it’s like Israel: all the time syncdoch, symbol, oatmeal. And in this way, Tel Aviv, like Israel, is not like most places on earth. It is inconceivable that Houston, Sydney, Accra, Buenos Aires or Moscow, to name just a few, would come up anywhere close to the same cognitive significance for so many people. True, these are cities where you can find iconic monuments and local cuisine, where some lifestyles may be more famous than others, and where the weather is such and such and the people are usually more so or so. All cities have unique distinctions. But they are, most of all, real places where real people live.

So is Tel Aviv, and it’s time to acknowledge that in our literature. And where real people live, they have the lives of real people, and in their cities, good and evil visit them, they encounter beauty and ugliness, and their holiness and profanity appear nearby. In these cities, in every city, one evil that afflicts the inhabitants, unanimous profanity, is murder.

The Israel Police at the murder scene in Sderot (Credit: Israel Police)

A well-planned murder mystery should tell you something about its environment. The story should reveal its place, the characters who live in it and the living conditions that led to the crime. The best murder mysteries are the ones that could not have evolved anywhere else. They are necessarily connected to the crime scene.

For too long, the fiction that takes place in Tel Aviv – I have to say, more broadly, the fiction that takes place in Israel – has collapsed into the understandable but unmistakable habit of evoking the enormous symbols of the place. If we look, for example, at novels written by Americans that take place in Israel (to avoid, for now, and for the sake of your sanity and mine alike, wading in the thick water of books written by Israelis), they can probably be divided into two large buckets.

First, there are the works of biblical fiction. You know what I’m talking about: a famous biblical figure, or his lesser known wife / sister / third son, gets a new and fascinating proofreading by a contemporary writer. Second, there is the fiction that takes place in what might be called the heroic era of modern Israel, around 1948 until probably the Yom Kippur War, when Israel was the clear underdog in all its external conflicts, with the fearless Israeli people celebrated around the world for making deserts flourish in gardens , When every day, the new and fragile Jewish state performed a miracle after a miracle impossible to fulfill the dreams of the millennia. But at some point over the last 40 or 50 years, Israel has become more inevitable. (Undoubtedly, one can ask how inevitable Israel actually is, in a plan of all things, especially given the nuclear ambitions of some of the lunatics in the neighborhood, but it is also doubtful whether we can agree that Israel is a much more fact than it was in 1951.)

More significantly, Israel has become a more real place. Young people were more preoccupied with their future pursuits than with an existential threat. Trade has come to replace irrigation as a major perennial target. Startups have taken the place of the popular imagination that kibbutzim once held. Quotidian concerns such as the price of milk and honey have circumvented concerns about how and where to resume milk and honey production. The cost of developing abandoned plots in the best neighborhoods of Tel Aviv has replaced the discussion of mosquito-borne diseases in the city. This is the way to progress, at least if your country does it right.

Slowly, and then all of a sudden, Tel Aviv became a real place. It continued to contain within it all of its history, its boundaries and its symbolism. But today’s Tel Aviv is very much a real place where the real silence, the comedy and the everyday tragedy, is – and should be – more prominent than an abstract narrative. It is a failure of imagination to continue to insist on imagining Tel Aviv primarily as a magical urban pixie whose main role is to carry the fairy dust of Bauhausism or colonialism or pioneering.

And which Real Place has Tel Aviv become? In the last 20 years, when Israel became a rich country, the refining of this wealth has appeared in Tel Aviv more openly than anywhere else. The “high-tech”, as this single word expresses a smashup in its streets, has created a huge abundance in the city. Shiny glass and steel towers now sit right next to not only dilapidated buildings of the last century, but also open garbage dumps where passers-by throw empty beer bottles and candy wrappers. Neighborhoods of wig shops and drop-off shops with others with shared software development spaces and boutique hotels. The rich and the poor, the fresh and the shabby, are close and visible.

Not only that, but the Diaspora flowed to Tel Aviv’s nearby residences, so you could hear music of Hebrew, English, French, Arabic, Russian, Persian, Italian and other languages ​​spoken by residents and visitors. There are also hints of cosmopolitan clothing styles, though perhaps less so than can be seen in other global cities. The city abounds with young people, looking for action, passing by elderly couples, frightened and troubled by the traffic and housing prices whose city was quiet today. The mood in the city is local political: no soul is satisfied with the garbage collection or the damn rent; Only who is to blame is controversial.

This is a real city, a real place. It’s adapted for a murder mystery.

The best form of murder literature, in my opinion, is the Noir. Noir is also, in my opinion, one of the three true American art forms (the others are jazz and its descendants and the Western movie, and yes, we can meet for coffee and argue about it another time). Art practitioners now come from all over the world, but the essential elements have remained almost the same for the past 75 years. In almost all cases, the atmosphere of a city – of a worthy, textured city – is necessary.

Noir’s basic promise – since Chandler, Cain, Hammett and McDonald’s – is that an unscrupulous detective, a man apart, travels the city’s visible and invisible miasma, from the penthouses upstairs to the garbage piles downstairs, from the enlightened. For the shrinking, from the beautiful to the cheap, who did not shy away from his mission to find the killer himself and who could have put the killer to work. To this end, the choice of city is essential. You need a city big enough for the task. There must be a large gap in wealth, cultural diversity and tension, political intrigue, or a nucleus of charitable ambition surrounded by an atmosphere of corruption or vice versa, and enough stimulating but not easy social mobility to make the pursuit – and the killing you completed it – worth the hassle. Perhaps most importantly, for the elements of the Noir murder mystery to be true, the city must go through a period of rapid and significant change. A social, political and economic upheaval must be upon him.

For these requirements, I can not think of a better place on earth than Tel Aviv. This is, after all, a real place in the movement. Where you can easily imagine dreamers coming from all corners of the earth and the planet, looking for their luck and future. And where can you easily imagine that lurking in its corners is a harbinger of the occasional hell of the sand, which aims to make everything disappear.

The author is the author of the book HIP SET (2021), a mystery of the murder of Noir that takes place in Tel Aviv.

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