"Free Fruit for Young Widows"
by Nathan Englander
Originally published in the May 17, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.
Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage.

Click for a larger image.

I actually read this story last Wednesday (it is now Monday). My delay in posting comments is the direct result of my not caring at all about this story. My actually posting comments has everything to do with my care for this forum.

The basic premise: a Jewish father, Shimmy Gezer, is trying to explain his war-riddled past to his young son, Etgar. As the years go by, he finds he can explain more, finally relating a story about one of their family acquaintances, the respected Professor Tendler. Of course, this was before he was a professor — before he had a high school degree, in fact. After Egypt took control of the Suez Canal, the French to pull their support from Egypt to join Israel. However, in the confusion, each side ended up having French issued, identical uniforms. One day, when Shimmy sat down for lunch with two commandos, Tendler came over, put down his teacup and shot the two commandos in the head. It turned out they were Egyptians who had, seeing the identical uniforms, joined the wrong side for lunch.

That is the first few paragraphs. The remainder of the story is Shimmy and Etgar’s discussions of Tendler’s conduct. How could he do it? Why does Shimmy respect Tendler so much? It just didn’t work for me.

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By |2016-06-09T17:14:40-04:00May 10th, 2010|Categories: Nathan Englander, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |5 Comments


  1. Trevor Berrett May 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

    One thing about doing these weekly looks at The New Yorker fiction: it sure keeps one aware of the swift passage of time! At any rate, this week’s forum is open.

  2. Tim Lepczyk May 11, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Even though it’s tough subject matter, I really liked this story. It was well told, and fitted together in a way that was complete, and didn’t leave me wanting more. You can read more here: http://digitaldunes.blogspot.com/2010/05/free-fruit-for-young-widows-nathan.html

  3. Joe May 11, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I have to admit, I had a very hard time getting into this story. Has there ever been a less enticing first sentence? For the first half-page or so, I kept asking, “Wait a minute, who??” “Huh??” “WTF?”

    Things improved greatly once the piece settled into the backstory of Tendler. I’m not sure the story ended up convincing me of anything (beyond the horrors of war, of course), but it certainly held my interest and made me think.

  4. Trevor Berrett May 17, 2010 at 11:51 am

    My thoughts are posted above. I didn’t like this story at all.

  5. Madwomanintheattic April 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    The ‘straight narrative’ part of this story, Professor Tendler’s horrible journey home is paradoxically the easy part. The surrounding frame tale, Shimmy and Etgar’s part, the gentle and generous part, is harder, but I think it repays an effort to understand it. Not only does it deal with the enormous ambiguities of life, it also deals with the ambiguous and tenuous life of Israelis who “in their nation of unfinished borders and unwritten constitution – [are] trapped in a gray space that was called real life.” Maturity is sometimes defined as the ability to deal with the ambiguous – perhaps that is why this works so well for me as a story of maturation.

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