Sunday, 22 May 2011

Short story

My son says that people may not be used to my style and that is why everyone is so critical, he thinks it is good enough as it is, and not to change anytthing. Some things I've changed anyway, but it is very reassuring to hear him say that. He is a good judge.

I will however try to write it in the first person.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The look of a book

Started reading Jenny Robin Jones' handsome book No Simple Passage, (Random House, 2011) - feel a bit overwhelmed by the wealth of detail about the new immigrants, I can't remember the names and so far the personalities of the various writers quoted such as the surgeon and CE, have not emerged. I suppose that every name is the name of someone's ancestor, that someone being a potential reader. There was at least one uncommon name belonging to someone I know, I shall have to tell them.

Am shocked that the single women (those from the working class, mind you!) are kept behind bars at night. There are many such devastating details - except of course that they were not 'details' for those affected by them: the surgeon has the right to withhold rations - their food - from those who swear at him, sometimes for several days in a row!  It's a comfort to read that those who do swear appear to have food of their own.

I skip lists, too much detail for this reader. It may become more story-like - have only reached p. 45 out of 300 plus.

Was charmed by the delicate poem on the frontispiece: 

Some days we are emigrants, 
some days we are immigrants,
some days we are simply passengers
milling about on the deck.

When does a leaving behind become 
a going towards?
When does it become a here now?

And when does a keep out become
we're all in this together? 
Also bought - without hesitation - Jenny Bornholdt's latest book The Hill of Wool (Victoria University Press, 2011). I read it quickly for the first time this morning, - shall read it again in the coming days, a reader has to work on this one, and sometimes even that is no use: symbols of something are there and you either like this poem-y thing or you don't.

Undone and Memory want to be learnt by heart, for occasional recitation at appropriate times - vilanelles, I think. 
Sometimes we forget that we remember
find it distressing that the past
could so evade us, remain as merely tremor
in our brains, so that we know the former
life is there, but can't quite grasp 
the detail. Sometimes we forget that we remember.

 Also liked Christmas and After Hours... Time will tell.
The book itself is not as nice as the previous one, though the cover illustration is satisfying.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Wrote a short story based on Einat's visit and Memorial Day (for Israel Defence Force soldiers), which needs more work. Several people have read it, all had suggestions to make, not one the same as the other, which means that it is not quite right in some way, since all the suggestions are quite far-reaching.

I am pleased with it anyway, writing it has satisfied a need in me. I shall save this version and play with version B to see where that may lead me.

I have managed in a mysterious and disastrous way to lose some of the writing which is the new beginning for the book. Only a few pages, but they packed a punch. A by-product of having spent a lot of time on it, is that when I re-write now, it may flow out pretty much as it was.

I also cannot find a letter I thought I'd written about the translation to be published.Maybe I only thought I wrote it?

Best was cleaning the kitchen this morning. You start with dirt and get rid of it and feel good. Nice and simple.
Unfortunately time-consuming and a diversion from what really matters.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

An autumn leaf on a dancing stream

Writing: After the work of planning and establishing structure, the book went off to a new start from a different unexpected angle, nothing to do with the plan at all. I am surprised and pleased, what is there makes sense, though I have the feeling of being bogged down at the moment. Never mind, important to keep on keeping on.

Israeli visitor, Remembrance Day for the Fallen with the Embassy and the rest of the Wellington community - her brother was a pilot who was killed, intense grief, trying to do my best. Old feeling of betrayal of Herzl's dream.

A friend came to see me and said: I have recurrent dreams where I dream that I am nothing, I have achieved nothing, my life made no difference to anyone.
She was upset.
But it is true, I said, we both laughed out loud, and that was it.
Last night, she slept without dreaming.

The usual stuff:  "Life is fleeting, an autumn leaf carried away on a dancing stream..." (Not a quote, but it might be).

Monday, 2 May 2011

On reading the Todesfuge at the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony

At the Holocaust Memorial ceremony last night, the programme cover said in big words Compassion and Re.....(can't remember the Re... word right now - forgetting words happens more frequently: during the week-end, forgot the word 'parsnip' for a while. I stood and stared at the parsnip and only the p came back. The rest of the word absented itself for a couple of hours).

The Holocaust is not about Compassion and Re..... (I'll add the Re word when it comes back, at the end of this post), which were one might say, significantly lacking at the time. Restrained myself from prefacing my reading by mentioning that even if the 12 000 Righteous Gentiles had been double the number, that is 24 000, and even if each of them had saved 10 Jews - which most did not, though a few saved thousands - only 240 000 Jews would have been saved. Reminded myself that 'He who saves the life of one person, it is as if he had saved the entire world." (Who said that?)

Someone whose opinion I value said I read Celan's poem 'appropriately', the best compliment that evening - some people came to tell me I'd read well. The poem seemed to take over, and there was the intent silence of attentive people. Several people had previously turned down the opportunity to read that poem, too difficult to read, they said, no punctuation.

I am glad that it ended up being me. A duty fulfilled. It was a bit of a battle to get it into the programme - another poem by a Holocaust Survivor was suggested, about a credo about belief  in human goodness. I responded that it was 'powerfully optimistic' whereas Celan is not a comfortable read (Hah!). But then the Holocaust was not a comfortable event.

Still waiting for Re... to reappear.

The poem about a survivor's belief in human goodness (Alexander Kimel) was read last, after several poems and songs which were full of grief. That felt like the right place for it, a positive thought to go home with.

Added the next day: the Re... word was Resilience.