This was 13th May, 2011, compliments of Peter H, I get The Bob Cats Newsletter regularly.
“Welcome to another edition of the Bob Cats Newsletter. It’s night time in the big city and the Kid is lying on his belly on the hotel roof watching the park where ballon’s are rising, barbeques are flaming and the Black Swan where the Cracked Thespian’s resting in an armchair outside on the pavement, spitting at passers-bye quoting the soliloquy of Montesqueu while Toinette Laveau and Marie Antoinette smokes Hedges & Benson discussing stock market prices and weather it’s true or not that the mayor got caught red-handed with his hand in the jar and his pants down. They’ve been out of town for six months sewing blue jeans at The House of the Rising Sun and now they’re up for some good old fashioned fun. The Kid don’t hear, he stares and glares and throws a dove’s egg down at the street, watching it explode on the windshield of a bus of strangers from out of town. Brakes hiss as the Black Dog crosses the street as the traffic light turns blue.”
THE BOB CATS NEWSLETTER 2011-05-13.pdf
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That was May 13th
Today’s Daily Alert is also full of surprises
I can never do justice in reporting my impressions about what I saw, heard and thought yesterday evening. At one point I thought of Sir Karl Popper leaving Austria in 1937 (before it was too late ) and emigrating to New Zealand , as he tells us on pages 110-111 of his autobiography Unended Quest
I was also thinking of a lecture held at the Jewish library this past Monday – a lecture about Inte Med Oss (Leonie and Walter Frankenstein’s life) by such a clear-minded lecturer and what a phenomenal memory for an 87 year old! And was thinking about some of the questions that Bertil Oppenheimer ( author of Till Sverige) had fired at him and the answers that he gave ……
Yesterday, May 26th was the last in a series on the International Writers Stage and the marvellous Amos Oz much loved in Israel and worldwide was holding house at Kulturhuset, an evening not to be regretted with the blessings of the electricity inherent in the male-female dynamic and there we the audience were, sitting in the dark, attentive , watching & listening the spotlight on him having an engaging conversation with the equally fantastic literati, Johanna Koljonen. ( It could have been another intellectual savvy and perhaps politically more engaging academic like Arne Ruth sitting in Johanna Koljonen’s chair, in which case the emotional chemistry inevitably generated by the feminine mystique sparkling with un-ostentatious intelligence would have been missing – absent – and the witty wizard of Oz would probably have been as present as he was but not bubbling with the same irrepressible sense of humour…
My Better Half was also sparkling yesterday evening and asked him the most interesting Literature based question from the audience, about his moving description of his parents life in the old country in his “ A Tale of Love and Darkness” as if he himself had experienced what they had experienced, the flowers, the trees the fruits, and then moving to Israel which was by contrast then something of a desert…No, he said ( he seemed quite pleased with the question) he couldn’t, had not gone back there, but Sonya his aunt had told him plentifully about all this and when he was writing the book he visited her once a week on Sunday mornings, so he was very nervous he says, about her possible reaction to what she read as his narrative, asked her, nervously and she told him that it was as if she had been sitting for a portrait and he had painted a life-like portrait ……something like that…….
In our personal tale of love and darkness, my Better Half is love and I am the darkness….ha ha…
How to describe Amos Oz? Words will never be enough, nor would the sum total of his own words……
Yesterday, we ( me, Better Half, Bibi) were at Kulturhuset at 18.40 , the show was supposed to start at 1900hrs and we joined the tail end of the queue into the venue at 18.45. The queue itself looked serpentine, like a picture of a voting queue in South Africa in 1994, the first democratic elections held for all colours in that country, and as said, we were at the tail end of that queue, with myself the honourable darkness bringing up the rear. Ever heard the saying, “ The first shall be the last and the last shall be the first”? Suddenly, the doors at my rear end ( not my derrière) opened and so the rear end of the queue was made to enter first. We rushed in and secured ringside seats behind the seats specially reserved for the press and diplomats and some of the others special dignitaries. All in all about 494 people were in the hall last night, only six people were absent. I counted.
Unfortunately, no welcoming, relaxing blessed glass of wine as part of the ticket as when David Grossman another Israeli writer peace-man / peace-nik was here the last time and interviewed by Arne Ruth
Amos Oz’s immediate impact is to be found in the Teskedsorden the founding of which was inspired by his book How to cure a Fanatic.
The evening started with a discussion of his latest book Scenes from a village life published by his Swedish publishers, Wahlström & Widstrand, as ” Lantliga Scener”
A village, Jewish villages of course, created by his imagination, in the language of creation, the Hebrew language, using the Hebrew alphabet, the village always a Jewish village of his dreams, families, unhappy families , of fictional people “each of whom has lost something” characters with secrets that they themselves do not know…enigmatic stories, stories about disintegration…..
And a very interesting story about the re-creation of the Hebrew Language in the last decade of the nineteenth century, as the national language of Israel. Because Ashkenazi Jews could mostly only speak Hebrew, whilst Sephardic Jews mostly spoke Ladino or Arabic so that when a Sephardic boy met an Ashkenazi girl, I LOVE YOU in Hebrew , were the first holy Hebrew words that he had to acquire in his pursuit of happiness and the fulfilment of the commandment to be fruitful and to multi-ply & replenish the earth…
Some years ago when Amos Oz was here and at Hedengrens, to promote “ A Tale of Love and Darkness” which had just been published in Swedish, I had heard him tell about the poetic resources of Hebrew and sing melodiously in English of the glories of the Hebrew Language ( which of course – inevitably – always suffers in translation) but this time it was even more interesting and at one point he said that Hebrew was “like a wonderful musical instrument” ( his exact words…..
And he spoke in glowing terms about his translator into English Nicholas de Lange with whom he has had a fruitful collaboration, earlier on, translating. After which Amos Oz and Johanna Koljonen spoke highly of Rose-Marie Nielsen’s translations of him into Swedish .
I wonder if she would like to translate Haim Sabato’s “ Aleppo Tales”
Whilst we are at it, Mr. Oz himself recommends his The Same Sea as a good introduction to his works, it is, he told us, his writing in which it is difficult to distinguish between where the poetic prose begins and the poetic poetry takes over in the symphony at which point I whispered in my Better Half’s ear a question as to whether he was talking about the same sea as composed on his fabulous musical Hebrew Instrument , the Hebrew Language, and whether she thought the symphony would retain the same musical quality in Swedish or English translation, but at that point she simply ignored my question and contiuned, with rapt attention, listening to his spoken prose in Queen Elizabeth’s English….
” The Same Sea” is now an opera…
Politically, about the Middle East, his most outstanding observation was about another tragedy : that unfortunately in Muslim countries in that area , women were still being OPPRESSED and that the women’s liberation would be the key to real progress in that area. Exactly what a woman’s ear likes to hear. But I did not notice whether or not Johanna Koljonen was nodding in agreement with him….
Oz believes that oppressed women bring up narrow-minded children. ( I once asked a Chechen woman from Grozny about how their kids are brought up and she told me that their kids are never oppressed as youngsters and therfore do not grow up to be people who are cowardly or afraid
Bringing the conversation to a close, Johanna Koljonen the perfect hostess, politely asked Profesor Oz what he thought was the value of Literature, what can Literature do to foster tolerance? Dr. Oz told us that Literature can broaden our perspective, disarm stereotypes – that at home in his household, it was a home in which ( understandably ) his parents had passed a fatwa against speaking the German language or purchasing any German goods but that later on it was through reading post-Holocaust German Literature, Heinrich Böll, Gunter Grass etc., that Germans had become humanized once more…Let me hasten to add that he said that it was not only the German language that had been forbidden at home, but all European languages had been forbidden to him, because his parents feared that with the acquisition of a European language , young Amos would probably want to set sail for anti-Semitic Europe where Jewish people were not welcome – and that apart from yes and no, the only other English that he knew then was three words, throwing stones at anti-British demonstrations and shouting “ British, Go HOME!!”
But from the purely linguistic and literary let us move on to the political part of the evening , which given the seriousness of present time I was hoping would be given equal attention , given that where there are two Jews present you are likely to find at least three opinions, and especially after Professor Oz intimated to us that in the present day Israel of 7 million people – one million of whom are from the former Soviet Union, everybody believes him or herself to be right: everybody is highly opinionated, everybody is a prophet, everybody or everybody’s rabbi knows best, everybody is a journalist, a religious extremist or pacifist, everybody is a great philosopher, everybody’s a theologian when it comes to the theology of the holy Land or the holiness of the land, everybody’s a political extremist, a Zionist of one shade, colour or the other, and everybody believes himself or herself to be right or to be the way, the truth and the light , everybody is the Messiah of Instant Redemption, eveybody is talking all of the time and no one is listening…..
And so to Amos Oz’s other flashes of profundity ( the writer as poet, prophet, literary liberationist, peace-ful politician and high priest, although he says that he is not a politician:
In response to a straightforward question in which Johanna Koljonen asked whether his writings were an apology for Israel ( she used the word apology in the sense in which apologia is usually meant) , Dr. Oz was definitive: Israel is beyond that – Israel is beyond the need for any sort of apology…..
If I had not been so moved emotionally I would have remembered his each and every word of response , but even though we were in perfect synchronisation at that moment I was temporarily (body, mind-memory and heart-soul ) enjoying another visionary experience the moment I heard what he had begun to say and was anticipating another flow of words…..I returned to earth a few moments later and by then I heard him saying that “Hamas is an idea”. I wish he had said, “Hamas is a bad idea” but by then he had launched headlong into some other pointless pontification about a two-state solution without even breathing a word about indefensible pre-67 borders, so I found my spirit being sapped into the energy-draining suction of his not so mellifluous words that the Israel-Arab (Palestinian) conflict is a clash between right and right, and that “Palestinians have nowhere to go”. Nowhere to go ? What about Jordan? Mecca? Can Jews emigrate to those kind of countries? As Dylan the prophet-bard sings,
“ Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid
From Broadway to the Milky Way
That’s a lot of territory indeed “
Ah yes, he ( Oz) said , Europe has shed so much blood, has shed more blood than anyone else, more than has been shed in Africa , the Middle East or any other continent. ( The guilt ridden Nobel Prize committee is perhaps not going to take too kindly to those words…… even if the song he is now singing is “ make peace not war” – the song that he should be singing backed by a converted Hamas choir, instead of even remotely suggesting the forcible removal of Israelis from one part of the Holy Land ( Judea and Samaria) to another part of the Holy land. Ditto with Israel leaving the buffer zone of Southern Lebanon : 6,000 Hezbollah rockets rained down on Israel in 2006 and they still have the urge and more than 40, 000 more advanced missiles and more Iranian backing for their demonic wipe out ambitions . And even as Dr. Oz is moaning that as a result of Ariel Sharon forcibly removing 15,000 Jews from Gaza, Hamas and their terrorist pals are still holding Gilad Shalit prisoner and still raining down rockets on Israel. On the way back home I came across a poster featuring Mattias Gardell & advertising that they are going to be celebrating the one year anniversary of the so called “ Freedom Flotilla”, on 31st May 2011, at Sergels Torg…..
It’s 16.15 and I’m badly pressed for time. Would like to take up a few other political and literary matters that surfaced yesterday evening, at Kulturhuset….. some thoughts about the parochial being able to be elevated to being universal, some thoughts about Horace Engdahl’s misgivings about American Literature , some thoughts about the two latest novels I’ve read by Philip Roth, some thoughts about ” Once Upon a Country.”
It’s 20.00hrs. I have just been listening to Amos Oz holding forth at the Great Synagogue of Stockholm. More about that later.
Shabbat Shalom everyone…..
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