Book review for the Jewish Chronicle posted April 17 2019
In some ways, I have to admire Israeli Nir Hezroni — or his agent. To have persuaded a publisher to destroy trees for his new book Last Instructions Point Blank, £8.99 (translated by Steven Cohen), and his previous outing, Three Envelopes, takes chutzpah of an extraordinary degree, and self-belief to a whole new level.
Mr Hezroni, who, he would have us know, studied physics in high school — which is just about as arresting a piece of information as my own biology O-level grade, back in the day — has produced this eye-watering, nigh unreadable package, which purports to be the story of a rogue Israeli spy gone mad.
Right off the bat, a decision has been taken between author, translator and publisher to blind the reader with pages in italics — possibly to denote “thinking” — and, even worse, to style “secret” memoranda on black pages with reverse white type.
The distraction from any sort of progressive narrative may well be deliberate, since there is almost no story-telling in the accepted sense of the word.
Somewhere, among the confused rubble of typefaces, we pick out that the deranged ex-spy, the main protagonist, is called Agent 10483 — no name, not even a nickname.
The prose grates on the page — numbers are rendered as figures so that “one” always appears as “1” — even when the sense is that he is talking about what “one” would do. Elsewhere there are infelicities such as 10483 using a fake French passport and telling us: “‘Don’t worry, we’re going to get rich’, I respond in a French accent”.
In this dreadful and risible morass, we learn that 10483 has apparently been unconscious and imprisoned in Israel for 10 years, but has unaccountably revived and escaped.
He flits off to Bolivia where he composes endless shopping lists of useful hardware such as nails and wooden bits and batteries and shovels and screws, all of which aid him in his quest to find, and take away with him, a nuclear warhead — as is often the case in Bolivia, presumably.
Quite what 10483 is planning to do with this nuclear warhead — he’s got the instructions, in Russian, and is teaching himself the language of an evening while he camps out next to his pet missile — is impossible to say, except that mayhem and murder ensue.
On his website, Nir Hezroni tells us that he works in I T during the day. Honestly, love, don’t give up the day job.
Last Instructions? My advice is don’t read this, you will never get the time back.