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Monday, November 22, 2004

Is there a Future for Literature?

Reading comments on Madonna's literary enterprise has helped me see that there are so many people who share my concerns. The problem is that writers are isolated, and not exactly in the mindset of conglomerates, which makes it easy for the last to act by “Divide and Rule.”

What we can do as individuals is still a lot, and can make a difference. As teachers and professors we can teach how to discern, maybe create a new form of Comparative Literature, that will compare real books to the nonbooks polluting our culture.

As reviewers we can create this kind of review, in which a new book of value is presented along with a nonbook from among the “best sellers.” Compare a “how-to” book to passages in literature which deal with human dilemmas in lasting and forceful ways.

Those among us who are successful literary writers can pressure the houses that publish them to devote a percentage of their budget to literary works chosen for their literary value alone, and to invest in their publication the same resources invested in the selling of a commercial book.

We can also demand from the newspapers that, along with and on the same page as, their list of the weekly “best sellers,” they publish a list of “best books.” Even if many newspapers belong to the same owner-publisher, they cannot exist without their journalists’ co-operation.

We can patronize independent bookstores and consider the slight difference in price as our individual contribution to the sustenance of culture. Being creative by nature, we can devise innumerable ways to have our concerns voiced and heard, create change. And since writing is our common language, we should strive to make it the real global language, by opening up to the rich diversity of the international spectrum. This applies especially to the insularity of the U.S.A.

As for the nature of change we’re witnessing – the second law of thermodynamics applies only to Time, not to what we do in time. Of course the past cannot be changed, but our actions as a society or as individuals can be changed at present and in the future. I am encouraged by the model of the Green Movement. It has built awareness and brought about a reversal of actions: threatened with the possibility that people won’t invest in or patronize companies that do harm to our environment, conglomerates as well as small businesses go out of their way to manifest that they are acting ecologically. Maybe we should enlist the Green Movement’s support. After all, pollution is pollution, be it intellectual or physical.

I was also thinking that, left to their own devices, big businesses do not find it in their interest to support independent thinking. An intelligent and culturally well-informed reader is not the type of consumer or laborer easy to manipulate. Therefore, I think it is in the interest of our society and democracy, not only in that of the writer, to reverse the tide.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sadly Funny

Just found in a books chainstore a heavily discounted beautiful book - red hardcover, excellent paper, jacket - a pleasure to hold and behold: Mark Twain's "A Tramp Abroad".

I'm still at the beginning yet already reading Twain's humorous description of the German students' spartan corps code and their insane dueling, one stops smiling. A root, unstroken.

>"...It was considered that a person could strike harder in the duel, and with a more earnest interest, if he had never been in a condition of comradeship with his antagonist, therefore comradeship between the corps was not permitted..."

"...I had seen the heads and faces of ten youths gashed in every direction by the keen two-edged blades, and yet had not seen a victim wince, nor heard a moan, or detected any fleeting expression which confessed the sharp pain the hurts were inflicting..."


I'm really touched to "hear" on the net people discussing issues which actually cross the line between the virtual and life itself.

Reaching out from Israel, the blog is a laboratory where behind glass windows, it is possible to experiment building a beta reality, where communication can be sane, relaxed, as close as possible to the unattainable ideal.

I couldn't stand the temptation and had the adsense at some of the English sub-blogs - yet I set it at the bottom of the blog, like in this old Jewish story of the legendary people of Khellem - they made a brand new beautiful floor for the synagogue

but then got worried that it will be smeared with mud, so they covered it with straw...

This seems to me to be the "dillema": how to keep the beautiful blog in sight and yet not have it smeared with mud...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Planet Sauvage

Planete Savage (Fantastic Planet) invaded my life some twenty years ago.

At that time it seemed like another animated science fiction movie.

Yet it stayed with me throughout those years.

Three classes people Planet Savage:

You see the Lords, who do not move at all. Nothing. Not even their eyes. Some bluish hail around their heads is their means of communication with the world, of ruling it.

I do not remember if there are any female characters among the Lords. They seem to lack gender and human characterizations.

Then you have the human Slaves. A bluish collar is enclosing each one's neck, informing the Lord exactly where a slave is at any given moment. A monitoring leash is embedded inside each collar, controling the slave's movements and actions.

Some of the slaves, a very small group, have managed to free themselves from the collars and are leading a dangerous partisan life in freedom, always on the run.

I'm reminded of this film daily, by the Israeli political situation, by the way actually not only in my country and throughout the Middle East but all over the multitudes are still led by bluish or reddish collars.

How come intelligent people agree to be enslaved?

Is it because the collar is always presented as a utilitarian gadget?

Look around you and see that you might be possessed by a such one. You hold it in your hand, or pocket. Even in a theater. With it you're never left on your own. It's called "cellular" or "mobile".

In some factories or at conferences, you're to wear it on your hand, next to your watch.

Alas, life is changing, even Romance isn't what it used to be: When you need one of your hands to hold your mobile's mike and your mouth to talk into it, Love becomes one-handed.

I don't own a cellular, nor plan to ever buy one.

No need to, there is always one handy. The Modern slaves are good natured and ready to share their fate with partisan vagabonds...

Saturday, November 13, 2004

"As Befits Worthy Writing"

"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.

© Ioram Melzer

Literature & Books, Ma'ariv 18.10.02


translated from the Hebrew by Michal Sapir.

Ioram Melzer is a much respected Israeli writer, literary critic, and translator.

read this in Russian;
in Hungarian;

In response to a new friend's questions:

Can one appreciate the language and culture of a virulent hating nation?

It is my strong belief and understanding that nations do not

hate each other's, as nations are not imbued with feelings, only

individuals are.

As long as the manipulators hold in their hands the

key to information it will be almost always possible to marionette the


That's why the Internet is so important as it turns the

tables and gives room to the individual voice.

Is it difficult to learn Hebrew?

It is not difficult at all to learn Hebrew when you come from a Middle Eastern

tradition. Hebrew belongs to the semitic languages and is greatly influenced or similar to it.

The theories elaborated by Arabic grammarians were applied to Hebrew grammar during the Golden Age of Hebrew literature and culture.

At that time the Arab ruled Spain and some of our most important cultural figures were in close interaction with theirs.

I was born in Romania as you may read at some pieces on the blog. "Unfortunately", Romanian, although a most beautiful and poetic language, has no Semitic linguistic roots...

We arrived when I was 12 years of age. Two years later, while reading Romain Rolland's Kolas Breugnon in an excellent and most rich translation by noted Hebrew poet Abraham Shlonsky, I realised that not even once have I reached for the dictionary.

That was a moment of triumph, indeed.

Nowadays there are many free Hebrew day classes. Very easy and pleasant. It was not so back in 1948. Parents had to learn from their kids, a task I did indeed perform to the extent that to this day, beware when you speak Hebrew in my presence... I'm on a pilot, You know, like the Pavlov dog...


read it in Hungarian;

Friday, November 5, 2004

In Person

Hello & Shalom,

My root blog here is TimeIn Tel-Aviv.

Since there is no other way to create categories, I've opened seven sub-blogs to this end - all carrying my own template, made after the template of my website.

No, I'm not a geek, if this is what it means - my website was created, after my vision by Daniel and Neta at Atarim and Yaacov Avnet at MWD is the generous spirit behind the creation of Time in Tel Aviv.

With the new upgrade at Blogger The ABOUT page you're reading right now was added.

And then along came Helen and translated a few pages into German; Natalia liked the idea and offered to translate into Polish; Mehdi, alerted by Natalia, volunteered to do so with Farsi and has just brought along a new friend: Arman; I read Andi's blog and loved the spirit, then S.ra Meller Padovani, volunteered a few pieces in Italian, but, oh, there are still so many beautiful languages and so much room for more!

The only place to see our latest posts throughout all sub-blogs should be MY PROFILE.

With a million blogs on their head, the updating is kind of slow... Check us at the very blog of your interest, I mean - at all of them...



read it in Polish; in Farsi;

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Following the suicidal attack at the Tel Aviv market


A dear friend writes to express his sorrow and ask after the well being of my family.

The truth is - rarely I go to markets. It's become time consuming.

I'm taking buses when people with suicidal tendencies sleep or take a rest.

Any of them looking for me in person will have to come armed with some garden tools and help me tend my plants: First business, then pleasure...


I'm horrified that The Manipulators had the cruelty to employ a 16 years old kid, that they've gone so low as to use abused women.

While feigning concern for Arafat's own life.

Maybe that child, if only spared his life, could have become a leader, a teacher, make a living difference. Or just enjoy life, basic life, if not on Suha Arafat's child level.

Who gives them the right, how dare they take the role of an Almighty God and sacrifice the other, the weak and the helpless. It's blasphemy.

They seem to differ with me on the concept of Courage.


Every victim of violence is my family, in Tel Aviv and in Ramallah, or anywhere on earth.

Every flower blooming in my garden celebrates life.

There is much to learn from the natural world. All it takes is to open the heart.

All who do so - the Manipulators label: Naive.

While we cannot even label them, Blind.

Their monstrous acts are done with open eyes.

Only the heart is closed, with an iron bar.

Well, I'll stay naive. With an open eye.


read it in Hungarian;

Monday, November 1, 2004

Singing Flowers For You

It's always easy to manipulate the weak and the muted: "We know better what's best for the flowers, for you."

It annoys me to no end.

"...Flowers are inserted into an acrylic tube containing a magnetic coil and an oscillating component. Applying an alternating electrical current causes the tube, and the flowers, to vibrate at high speed, producing audible sound..."

Thanks to Marijano for alerting us...