Reading Group Center

How Tragedy Shaped David Grossman's To the End of the Land

David Grossman’s To the End of the Land is a powerful novel about family and war. When Ora’s son Ofer is sent to the front—just before his release from service in the Israeli army—she copes by taking an epic hike with an unlikely companion. Grossman began writing the novel six months before his oldest son’s service in the Israeli army ended, and he completed it just after his youngest son was killed in battle. In the afterword to the book, he explains how this tragic loss influenced his writing.

“I began writing this book in May 2003, six months before the end of my oldest son, Yonatan’s, military service, and a year and a half before his younger brother, Uri, enlisted. They both served in the Armored Corps.

Uri was very familiar with the plot and the characters. Every time we talked on the phone, and when he came home on leave, he would ask what was new in the book and in the characters’ lives. (“What did you do to them this week?” was his regular question.) He spent most of his service in the Occupied Territories, on patrols, lookouts, ambushes, and checkpoints, and he occasionally shared his experiences with me.

At the time, I had the feeling—or rather, a wish—that the book I was writing would protect him.

On August 12, 2006, in the final hours of the Second Lebanon War, Uri was killed in Southern Lebanon. His tank was hit by a rocket while trying to rescue soldiers from another tank. Together with Uri, all the members of his tank crew were killed: Bnayah Rein, Adam Goren, and Alex Bonimovitch.

After we finished sitting shiva, I went back to the book. Most of it was already written. What changed, above all, was the echo of the reality in which the final draft was written.”

Click here to download our reading group guide.