Holocaust survivors and nightmares: Unfortunately, the two are, all too often, constant companions.The Black Sun, the dark novel by Israel Prize-winning law professor and former education minister Amnon Rubinstein – the first of his six works of fiction to be translated into English – takes the reader into the nightmares of Shaul, who came with his parents to Tel Aviv from Poland in 1956 at the age of 16.Ironically, Shaul had spent the war years in Siberia with his parents and did not become orphaned by the Nazis – as did his wife, Mira, and his best friend’s wife, Stella. He did not personally witness SS brutality nor did he experience blatant anti-Semitism when the family was expatriated to Poland.And yet it is Shaul alone who is plagued by terrible nightmares, and it is Shaul alone who suffers from severe post-traumatic stress when his best friend, psychiatrist Gideon Pinford, is killed in a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv café in 2002. Perhaps the author is implying that survivors are made of hardier stuff, or perhaps that Shaul is a self-appointed emotional scapegoat for the others.Shaul’s stubborn refusal to accept the reality of Gideon’s death fuels the plot of the novel. Mira, Stella and Shaul’s grown children at first fear that Shaul is suffering from early-onset dementia, until it becomes clear that his hallucinations are focused singularly on Gideon.Obsessively walking the streets of Tel Aviv, exhausted from his nightmares, Shaul believes himself ever on the trail of his friend, who he imagines was either kidnapped by terrorists or ran away to begin a new life with a woman able to give him children, unlike Stella.Rubinstein introduces the reader one by one to the main characters. We learn that Gideon was Shaul’s protector and his Sabra mentor, when Shaul arrived from Poland burdened with linguistic and cultural handicaps. The popular, athletic former kibbutznik took it upon himself to teach the newcomer the ropes of Israeli life, from the proper method of eating felafel (“Take a bite from each side, and slurp the tehina”) to the proper way of dressing (no more European-style handkerchief pinned to his shirt!) We learn of Shaul’s parents’ differing approaches to their hardships as Polish- speaking greenhorns in Tel Aviv, and how this affected their only child. We learn, too, of Mira and Stella’s wartime experiences and how Shaul had once loved Stella. Finding Gideon in flagrante delicto with Stella during their army days caused a years-long estrangement between the men, which healed over time and perhaps further cemented their relationship.“When he thinks about it, his old jealousy turns into a new love for his hidden friend,” writes Rubinstein. “Shaul once again reaches the same conclusion he did so long ago: that his love for the two people who had betrayed him – Stella and Gideon – was similar. It was unconditional.”Heeding the advice of professionals, the distraught wives Mira and Stella grudgingly acknowledge that Shaul’s feverish and fruitless search for his dead friend is actually a critical lifeline for the recently retired cello teacher. With difficulty, they pretend to be convinced of the wisdom of hunting for Gideon. There is something solidly heroic and altruistic about the women’s willingness to put aside their worry, grief and embarrassment out of concern from Shaul’s well-being. At certain points, Stella admits she is tempted to start believing that Gideon may really be alive, and the reader concurs.We may strongly suspect, as does Mira, that Shaul has lost his marbles, but then again we have to admit there is truth in his rejoinder: “Mirush, my love. You don’t understand. Life is so strange and full of paradoxes. All sorts of irrational things happen in life.”In this short novel, Rubinstein leads the reader on an exploration of those hazy places between dream and reality, death and life, sanity and madness. All of this is presented against the backdrop of the second intifada and the tremendous dayto- day toll it took on Israelis.Hannah Hochner seems to have done a fine job of translation. The only technical criticism is the typographical layout of the book – double-spaced with no extra white space between paragraphs. The text is therefore somewhat uncomfortable to read, though the story is sufficiently compelling to overcome this aesthetic shortcoming.