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Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Lidia Jorge

A few months after I had returned from the first meetings in Paris in September 1995, as I was transcribing the conversation with the French poet Anne Portugal from the tape onto my computer, I heard her saying again how her name always surprised everyone, it was such a rare name in France.

I opened the Tel-Aviv telephone directory and found there alone some twenty Portugals, Portugalis, Portugueses, Portos.

Half a year later, in April 1996, in Lisbon, Lidia Jorge told me that in fact in Portugal everyone is a bit Jewish - almost in every family there was an element of the "New Christians". That is what they call the Jews who had been forced by the Inquisition to convert to Christianity, and that is also what they call their descendants to this day.

Lidia Jorge lives in a modern neighborhood which was built just after the Second World War. At four-thirty in the afternoon, still in broad daylight, a young woman who had helped me find the name on the doorbell asked me to hold the elevator for her till she picked up her post from the mailbox.

I assumed she was in a hurry, and waited.

Lidia, young looking, opened the door cautiously, and I followed her into a sun drenched living room. The smile, the comfortable clothes she was wearing and the soft coaches signaled warmth. She said, "I’m old-fashioned too. I believe a writer should be engaged in the world."

Before the trip I had read one of her stories, in English translation, "The Proof of the Birds".

In the story a man tries to count birds in order to prove the existence of God.

I told her that was exactly what I was doing - trying to count, the women writers...


excerpt from my introduction to Lisbon's chapter at "Once She Was a Child" (Noffey Haneffesh, HudnaPress 2002

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