Sodot, by Corinna - a writer who grants us her first name - is a most intriguing book. It turns out that Sodot is her third book, with the first one published almost thirty years ago. Yet the interest in Corinna does not conclude only in her identity. On the contrary, Sodot is an interesting book, different and indeed worthy. The first encounter is with Corinna's unique language. I assume the reader won't grasp this uniqueness at first, since the book is written in everyday Hebrew, much alive and for sure familiar. The wholeness of the book is evasive. You need to read several tens of pages in order to understand what Corinna's language is doing to you. With a most straightforward Hebrew, seemingly simple, in short sentences, quite often devoid of asides, additions or reservations, Corinna succeeds to reach the reader's heart and set before his eyes a viable reality and a well-defined statement. The style serves Corinna throughout the book. Actually it is the sole constant.
Sodot is a most modern novel, built of fragments, sketches and stories, with constant shifts in the story's angle and in the narrator's perception. The concise language that reigns throughout the book enables Corinna to move from the general to the particular, from the large picture to the marginal detail, from the objective drama to the subjective hue. Her success is quite impressive and she succeeds in mastering this sharp tool throughout the book.
Sodot tells the stories of people in Israel as of late, of the national events in which they are entangled, of their personal circumstances that are not always entirely tied up to time and place, politics or "the situation", although they are never entirely freed from them. The narrator - who undergoes no small changes by the time we reach the end of the book - serves as a prism to all she encounters, people, places, stories. Corinna knowingly creates distance and yet grants it clear visibility. She's leading the narrator within the multifaceted Israeli material, yet looks at it always from the outside as well. She stands apart from the narrator she creates and that one keeps herself well apart from each person, place and situation she does meet with. The book emanates a dreamy quality that envelops the reader. The restraint, the irony, the spark that is aware of itself and well hiding, all these make the reading in Corinna's book an unique and direct encounter, as befits a worthy literature.
What Readers Have Written About Corinna's Work
"On Once She Was A Child" "Your writing is captivating and a pleasure to read." Marcia Gilespie, Editor-in-Chief, Ms Magazine
"Very engaging and unique." Andrea MacPherson & Chris Labonte, Editors, Prism International
On Sodot (A Minyan of Lovers)
"I decidedly respect both your writing and the choice of your subjects (such as in 'Intifada'). You have 'a head of your own' in this uniform reality." A.B. Yehoshua
"I think you deserve even better than this review. Moshik and I read Sodot aloud to each other and enjoyed it very much. There is a subtle irony in your presentation of the story and we really appreciate the style and content." Ilana Machover, London
On Pink Pages
"Corinna, You have a fresh and vital talent, the right style, and an original way of looking at things. I very much enjoyed your book." A.B. Yehoshua, novelist
"Corinna has a concise, but sensual language, not elevated, believable, yet not familiar. People do not write like that here... Out of the trivia of a woman' s life, stories unfold where it is difficult to differentiate between the face of the soul and the events of the world." Hadashot, Literature Section
"For me, these stories, with all the restrained strength of their clear and gentle understatement, became a capsule filled with sadness, beauty and optimism. Suddenly it was obvious to me that there is no simple and known answer waiting around the corner; rather the opposite: more and more questions arise." Kol Yerushalayim. Arts and Culture Supplement
"Only after finishing the book does the reader begin to understand that each chapter renders time differently... several cross-sections of time, some overlapping, like a giant kaleidoscope that alters its appearance with the viewer and the angle of vision." Yedioth Ahronoth
"Fragile and ephemeral situations of closeness. .are described as well as growing distance that ends in divorce, relations with one's lover, and even random flirtations. The stories progress with sensitivity to women in general who are victims in situations where ties with others and with reality are tenuous; women who dream and for whom reality is difficult." Haaretz. Literature Section "Corinna succeeds in depicting the despair and pain of a woman who undergoes an abortion and tries to make sense of her family and friends. Most interesting are the interactions between a Jewish and an Arab family exchanging visits, their hostility in the background. All the stories reveal acute perception, psychological depth and accurate descriptions." Prof. Hanoch Guy, Chair, Hebrew Department, Temple University
On Some Answer "This book is a literary gem... The work is set in the stunning events of the Six-Day War, but it was written before the October 1973 hostilities. Still in the turbulent realities, the book retains much of the radiance of the heroine, Hagit, despite being 'boxed in by life'." Hebrew Abstracts, The National Association of Professors of Hebrew, University of Louisville
"Corinna, a new name in Hebrew literature, has so far published two stories, both marked by the refinement of the writing." Massa Literary Supplement, Davar
"The mystical atmosphere, poetic rhythm. and sentence structure and divisions create a special tension and bring the novella 'Revelation' to story-telling perfection." Aricha Prize Jury
"It's been a long time since a writen word had moved me so deeply. I feel I've met with unique beauty. I would like to know more about the writer. She is indeed a revelation herself. Until now I saw in Agnon's Tehilla a model of good modern writing. But I think Corinna in Revelation has surpassed it." Kesster Jushka, Haifa
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE / Michal Sapir
As Walter Benjamin puts it in 'The task of the Translator, "all translation is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages." As such, translation is very much concerned with the friction of foreignness and with the possibility of alleviating it through the act of communication.
Much of Corinna's work inhabits borderlines and points of mediation; her stories are about exiles, immigrants and ambassadors, who talk with each other through telephones, photographs and films.
Corinna herself, in a sense, always already writes in translation. She emigrated in 1947 from Romania to what was, under British rule, called Palestine, and Hebrew is not her native language. And so, throughout the book, the project of writing itself serves Corinna, and her protagonist Anna, as a tool for overcoming alienation from Self and the Other.
Nevertheless, a profound doubt as to the possibility of mediation hovers above PINK PAGES. Corinna's borderline habitat often fills up with frustration and sadness, since the effort to connect can easily result, on the contrary, in a reinforcement of the wall.
Reading PINK PAGES again after having lived outside of Israel for the last seven years, I was struck by the extent to which the Israeli existence described in it was informed by bereavement and grief. Time seems to always begin and end in death, starting, in the Diaspora, with an old world in ruin and continuing, in Israel, to be punctuated by the relentless periodicity of war.
If the writing of the self is also a diving into the sources of memory, then Anna, the book's protagonist, who in the course of PINK PAGES goes back to trace a Jewish past in Europe, encounters on this path the ultimate Other: the dead. Time here becomes, as it were, an obstacle in the way of translation; its passage traces immigration, displacement, forgetfulness, misunderstanding, loss of touch. It produces silence.
But at the same time I was struck by the courage and affirmation emanating from these stories. Anna's defiance takes shape in the act of writing itself, in the sheer audacity of attempting translation. And if time is depicted in the stories as a falling into change, discrepancy, and contingency, then it is also portrayed as producing the very borderline habitat, the very gap in which translation itself is able to take place. In the illuminated space opened up by PINK PAGES there is room enough for brave words to reverberate.
Michal Sapir is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at New York University.