In the year 999, when Ben Attar, a Moroccan Jewish merchant, takes a second wife, he commits an act whose unforeseen consequences will forever alter his family, his relationships, his business-his life. In an attempt to forestall conflict and advance his business interests at the same time, Ben Attar undertakes his annual journey to Europe with both his first wife and his new wife. The trip is the beginning of a profound human drama whose moral conflicts of fidelity and desire resonate with those of our time. Yehoshua renders the medieval world of Jewish and Christian culture and trade with astonishing depth and sensuous detail. Through the trials of a medieval merchant, the renowned author explores the deepest questions about the nature of morality, character, codes of human conduct, and matters of the heart.
One would think from all the brouhaha about the imminent arrival of Y2K that the world had never experienced a change of millennium. In fact, we've been through it all before, as A.B. Yehoshua reminds us in his novel, A Journey to the End of the Millennium
. The year is 999 and the protagonist is Ben Attar, a North African Jewish merchant who has, for many years, been in profitable partnership with his nephew Abulafia and a Muslim trader named Abu Lutfi. But when Abulafia marries a German Jew who disapproves of his uncle's two wives, the partnership is suddenly dissolved and Ben Attar finds himself out of business.
Abulafia's repudiation of his uncle sets the stage for Ben Attar's journey into the heart of Europe at the turn of the millennium. Accompanied by a rabbi, both his wives, and Abu Lutfi, our hero sails to Paris, where he hopes to persuade his nephew's wife that his marriage to two women is both legally and morally permissible. Yehoshua's tale is more than just a travelog through the Europe of the 10th century; it is also a meditation on religion, law, and the differences between the European Sephardic tradition and that of the Middle Eastern Ashkenazic Jews--differences that echo the current social and ideological conflicts within Israel today.