A Week in IsraelBy Eva Feld“When Israel has prostitutes and thieves, we’ll be a state like any other.” What Israel’s first prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, meant by such shocking statement, circa seven decades ago, was the need of the Jewish people to own a piece of land that each and every one of them could call home regardless of background, profession, economic status, or color of the skin.Little did Ben Gurion suspect that three generations after the foundation of the modern state of Israel, and once reached the “normalization” that he was seeking for his people, he would have to face a new breed of Jews more related to their age than to their nationality, religion, or language.The Israeli young adults are as millennials as any other of their equals around the world. When off-duty from the military service, the young Sabras are plugged into the internet to connect with their contemporaries all over the globe. They share the same dreams and values and are willing to spend all their earnings if they are given the slightest chance to travel around the world. Their fingers are trained to text at astonishing speed. Dozens of young soldiers can be seen in large groups, with a machine gun hanging around their neck, visiting their country as tourists, most of them also carry a cell phone to stay in touch with their loved ones, and the virtual reality that holds them together as a generation.On a Sabbath, hundreds of millennials hang out drinking beer and flirting on the wonderful beaches of Tel Aviv. They easily mingle with tourists from everywhere (with fluent English). Besides Ivrit (Hebrew) and English, many speak their ancestor’s language as well. Along the coastline, that reminds the ones in Copacabana (Brazil), it is common to hear a Peruvian flute, Portuguese samba, Puerto Rican salsa, and loud voices in Dutch, German, Rumanian or French.Beautiful girls in tiny bathing suits parade nonchalantly on the shiny sand by the Mediterranean Sea, while well-built males work out in outdoor gyms. They then gather at numerous restaurants where fresh fish, taboule, babaganoush, falafel, and hummus are served by other young adults. A festive atmosphere reigns all over.The sacred meaning of the Sabbath that begins with the first star on Friday evening is well kept in the collective consciousness, but the millennials were born in an era of freedom. they serve their country and their God by proudly speaking Hebrew, a language conquered for them by their grandparents, by defending their nation when called for duty, and by working and studying hard in a very competitive society. They comply with their constitutional rights and obligations, but at the same time, they exercise their citizenship with the right to disagree with the status quo, with liberty and self-determination. As do Christian millennials in their own churches, they go to the temple only on special occasions, and pray individually. They also check job opportunities and interesting challenges abroad, as do all millennials everywhere.David Ben Gurion has accomplished postmortem his goal. Today Israel is a state like any other, except for the perennial menace of its borders. Ben Gurion also foresaw such struggle: “Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of Arabs and Jews. But everybody sees that there is no solution to this question.” So, life under perpetual threat has also acquired a glaze of normality, after all, Gaza is far from the Tel Aviv beaches.Alternative realities and controversiesIsrael faces core disagreements, incongruities, and political storms. Nationalism vs universalism, conservativism vs liberalism, laicity vs religious purity, militarism vs civisms, are only a few of the issues that divide the population. There are also social matters and ethnic differences, not only between Jews, Christians and Muslims, but also internal affairs amidst each of these communities: Sephardim (Jews who come from Spain, Portugal and Africa) vs Ashkenazim (mostly European Jews); Copts vs Catholics vs Orthodox. About 20 per cent of the population is Arab, mostly Palestinians, but also from other nationalities, each one with their own mind-sets.All signs on the roads of Israel are written in Hebrew, in Arabic and English. In some places, Cyrillic is already added for according to some unofficial figures, Russian speaking people ascend to 20 percent of the population.Without pluralism, eclecticism, and tolerance, the modern state of Israel could not exist. Sometimes it is hard to understand the contradictions between what one sees on the streets of Jerusalem and some almost factious statements from certain politicians. Hundreds of people gather at the Western Wall to pray and place their petitions among the old stones. Nobody asks them about their nationality or faith. It suffices not to carry arms or any menacing device to approach the wall.Of course, according to the Jewish tradition, men and women pray separately. So, I found myself surrounded by a dozen Ecuadorian Indians, a whole class of school girls brought to visit the holy place, a bunch of American tourist wearing lots of make-up and big hats, and a great number of Asians. All of us crowded, shoulder to shoulder, seeking to attain a peaceful moment for meditation and prayer, while more crowds were waiting for their turn behind us.When I was about to leave, a tremor overtook my body and mind at the sight of a Hindu ageless woman dressed in an orange and yellow sari. Her forehead and both her hands were glued to the wall. She was singing and praying and crying in Sanskrit. For me, her mantras, her tears, her devotion represented for an instant the magnitude and universality of spiritual power regardless of race, faith or origin.The lively Dead SeaThe booming modern state of Israel, offers alongside its millenary sites both historic, religious and cultural, some unique experiences such as the Dead Sea and the deserted land that surrounds it. Many kilometers of heat and clay, a vast uninhabited land, and yet, even this arid and desolated spot on the earth has deep meaning to the Jews. Amidst the nothingness, ancient people built a fortress called Masada. With some research and a lot of imagination, it is possible to reconstruct the hardships and deprivations suffered by its inhabitants and their endurance based on hard work and faith.In the vestiges of Masada lie the fortitude and resolution of the Jews to survive. The blue sky and Dead Sea are the only recess to the eyes in this desertic scenery. Not so to the heat, for both, sky and water are incandescent.Everybody is aware of the high density of the Dead Sea. The picture of tourists floating effortlessly on their backs is as common as the ones of tourists holding the inclined Tower of Pisa in Italy. Actually, floating in the Dead Sea involves an inversed effort to go back to a vertical position. The sea feels like a lively mass of water with a determination to keep you floating forever. It so strongly pushes you up to the surface, that people seem as though they were drowning when trying to land on their feet.Along with the touristic exploitation of The Dead Sea, it is of course a source of salt and potash (an important component of fertilizers). It is impossible not to admire the development of such an arid area: modern and fully equipped hotels and Spas by the sea, a cable car, with capacity for 80 people per trip, to visit Masada, a restaurant and a museum. The latter built to blend in with the mountain. There are drinking fountains everywhere as proof of a highly technological and effective desalinization procedure.FinaleDavid Ben Gurion served his ideal since 1931 (seventeen years before Israel was declared a nation). Until his death in 1973 at the age of 87, he occupied the most important roles: from Prime Minister (1948/1953), Minister of Defense (1955/1963) to an influential member of the Parliament, his was the voice of wisdom and action. During those fifty-two years of political exposure, Ben Gurion said a great number of memorable phrases.As small as Israel might be in territory, it is impossible in a week to assess all the cultural, historic, economical, political or touristic aspects, as impossible it is to make justice to the man who is considered the founding father, David Ben Gurion.Like for the resolution of an equation, I chose the words, places and figures that demonstrate what I saw, heard, and lived. I hope to have achieved my goal. Quod erat demostrandum.May 2018
viernes, 15 de junio de 2018
jueves, 12 de octubre de 2017
Diecisiete años después de la aparición de mi primera novela en español, "Los Vocablos se Amaron por Última vez, publico mi primera en inglés bajo el título de "La Belleza del Fracaso".
Ambientada en la Venezuela del presente,la novela refleja, en una sucesión de espejos, la supervivencia, los retos y la resiliencia de los venezolanos, pero sobre todo la mirada de un viejo intelectual, con miles de seguidores en las redes sociales, cuya voz, sin embargo, es desoída y cuya vida se debate entre la palabra y la acción.
A continuación, le ofrezco a mis lectores en inglés cinco razones para leer "The Beauty of Failure". Un resúmen en español:
1. Actualidad y Proximidad
2. El uso de un lenguaje contaminado. Un inglés imperfecto aprendido al garete, en tránsito, migratorio.
3. La presencia del elemento dramático entre civilismo y dictadura; democracia y tiranía, voz y reacción.
4. Cuento con la intervención de los lectores para completar la breve historia de apenas 116 páginas.
5. El uso de visiones, alucinaciones comprotamientos extraños que son la sal, pimienta y picante en la literatura latinoamericana.
Acerca de mi Curriculum Vitae, comparto con mis lectores angloparlantes algunos datos:
1. Soy periodista egresada de la Universidad Central de Venezuela. He trabajado en diarios como El Nacional y el Diario de Caracas, en el suplemento hispano del Chicago Sun-Times.
2. He publicado tres novelas en español, una antología de cuentos y un libro digital de viajes y algo más:
Los Vocablos se Amaron por Última Vez
La Transparencia del Reflejo
La Senda de las Flores Oblicuas
Mujeres y escritores, más un crimen (cuentos)
Membretes del pasaje (viajes y algo más)
Failure-Eva-Feld/dp/ 1548798827/ref=sr_1_1?s=books& ie=UTF8&qid=1506643097&sr=1-1& keywords=Eva+Feld
Failure-Eva-Feld-ebook/dp/ B0762T8SKC/ref=sr_1_3?s=books& ie=UTF8&qid=1506952482&sr=1-3& keywords=Eva+Feld
1.- Actuality and Proximity
The setting of the novel is the current events in Venezuela. Repression and shortage of food and medicine; galloping inflation and political tyranny.
Venezuela is in the news every day. Nearly 150 people have been killed this year, there are thousands of wounded and as many detained. There is great concern in America, where VP Michael Pence and Secretary General of the O.A.S, Jorge Almagro, each from different platforms and ideologies, are claiming to find ways to help Venezuelans. Both fear that Venezuela may become a second Cuba ruled by a dictator and a corrupt military.
This is my first attempt to write a novel in English. I am very lucky to participate in an American writing group in Cincinnati, Ohio, where most out of the thirty participants tell me that The Beauty of Failure reflects the influence of immigrants on the English language. This happens mainly because of the use of different than usual words (or constructions), to express feelings, metaphors, and descriptions.
3.- Pathos (dramatic conflict)
The main character of my novel is an old intellectual, who sees reality through the window of his computer. A solitary person with thousands of followers. This man, Mr. Mel, lives in the epicenter of a social and political upheaval, but also in the midst of a personal cataclysm between soul and body, words and action, mind and heart.
The Beauty of Failure is as short as Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea" or Milan Kundera’s "Festival of indifference". Brevity gives significance to every paragraph, but also allows silence for inference on the readers side.
Hallucinations, visions, dreams, and bizarre behaviors complement The Beauty of Failure. These are the salt, pepper, and chili in Latin American narrative.
The novel consists of fourteen ‘arbitrary’ chapters to help the reader catch a breath, there are no intertitles.
The main character, Mr. Mel, is an eighty-year-old Venezuelan writer, the grandchild of a guerrilla commander. He fathers an only son, Mario, a lighthearted emigrant, whose second wife Titina was transferred to Dublin, where they live with their little daughter Oriana.
From a first marriage, Mario has an older daughter Julia, who stays behind for a few months with her grandfather, Mr. Mel, until she is abducted.
Much of the research has the signature of my profession as a journalist. Nevertheless, The Beauty of Failure is a Novel; all the characters are fictional, and so is the story. As Vladimir Nabokov once said, the novel is the quid by itself.
A few words about myself:
At age 23, I became a journalist at Universidad Central de Venezuela, the most autonomous and prestigious university in the country. I was granted a scholarship by the French Government to further my studies in Paris, circa 1973.
Two years later, back in Venezuela, I worked at magazines and newspapers for over a decade: (El Nacional and El Diario de Caracas, among others.)
For a year, I freelanced for the Chicago Sun-Times weekly Spanish insert, and for a Latino radio station Radio Ambiente.
My literary career started at age 50, when my first book was published: Mujeres, Escritores más un Crimen (14 stories)
This first attempt was followed by three novels:
Los Vocablos se Amaron por Última Vez
La Transparencia del Reflejo
La Senda de las Flores Oblicuas
And Membretes del pasaje (viajes y algo más) and Mujeres y escritores, más un crimen (cuentos)
viernes, 6 de noviembre de 2015
Fission, Fusion, “Faccion”, Fashion these are the five enunciates that come to mind when confronting the outcome of the deliberations that resulted in the adjudication of the Nobel Prize for Literature this year.
The Prize has been granted to the Byelorussian journalist Svetlana Alexievich who has devoted most of her life to dig into the Soviet soul. In short, she has given voice to the silent minority, or should I say to the bearers of the Communist regime in her native country and the vaster Soviet Union.
This she has done by “transcripting” hundreds of interviews with common people exposed to the Communist ideology throughout several generations. The only one of her five novels that has been translated to Spanish and English is about the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl (1986): over two hundred pages of horrors described by the protagonists giving the reader a view over a patchwork made out of testimonies and numerous questions about the future, not only theirs but also of the entire human kind.
Svetlana Alexievich is a documentalist, therefore war also plays an important role in her book: the military language used by the political leaders contaminates the atmosphere and she proves her point by comparing the nuclear explosion of Chernobyl to previous war experiences, except for the fact that in a nuclear one the enemy has become lethal yet invisible.
Without intervening much in the narrative, she also poses a comparison of the true unbelievable facts to the ones that only an imaginative science fiction creator could have come out with.
Of course, the fear and adoration of God represent a catch 22 for the survivors considering their ultra-religious backgrounds. People, regardless of their faith, ask themselves, as did German thinker Theodor Adorno, after the Second World War, how is it possible to live and create the same way as ever, after such experiences? Is there not a before and an after Chernobyl? Is it possible that it has just become another show for mediatic and even touristic consumption?
Certainly Svetlana Alexievich applies fission to her narrative as “the act or process of splitting into parts”. Maybe her storyline mimics the nuclear fission that occurred in Chernobyl where radiation spread and where the blues in all shades and meanings overtook all living beings including the earth itself.
Without a doubt, Svetlana Alexievich rubs high temperatures into her stories. The way fusion is described in the dictionary, she also “blends different things into one by heat”. Such high temperature submerges the reader in a time and place where no one wants to be, hence every detail counts as each one belongs to a true life experience, none of which can possibly be left out. Alas, in the reader’s eyes, the sum of the elements under scrutiny becomes itself an atomic bomb that one needs to flee.
A neologism had to be created to address the factual and the fictional under a solo word. For the questions of what is literature has aroused many eyebrows. Svetlana Alexievich is not the first journalist to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Colombian Gabriel García Márquez is maybe the best example. Hence, his prose was elaborate, his plots were threaded and he was sophisticated both in literary and journalistic tasks. Borrowing language from the painters, Alexievich ultra-realistic sketches may be considered as reversed expressions of Soviet realism.
There is hardly any narrative or description intervention on her part. Her Voices of Chernobil (1997) is a series of terrible accounts narrated in first person by dozens of protagonists of the catastrophe. Her permanent use of colloquial language leaves space to deviations and derivations, even though there are shared claims among the interviewed regardless of their social, educational or political level: The terrible lack of information all the victims suffered by an omnipresent ideological and propagandistic power, as well as their necessity to leave a testimony.
It may be that the reality shows, the testimonials, the quotes, and the unveiled truth are the trend of the Century. This may also be the tendency of the literature juries: to privilege the factual over the literary skills. Perhaps the pendulum has shifted back to a search for “the truth”. Even when what is being unveiled is more of the same: the evilness of the Human Condition, the need of notions such as love, solidarity and hope over fatality, pessimism or depression.
Or is it that postmodernism has become an umbrella under which everything goes?
By Eva FeldLoveland, October 201
miércoles, 9 de septiembre de 2015
Native American sweat lodge
By Eva Feld
Power penetrates our eyes
Pierce our ears
Unwritten words encompassing
A communal heart beat
Overtakes the ritual
As crawling participants gather
Laughter, sobs, howls
Men and beast become unison past
Smoke and ashes cloud
Sweat and tears rain
The voice of the Indian thunders
All relatives recreate the Universe
Loveland, OH, September 2015
martes, 28 de julio de 2015
By Eva Feld
To Jack Lindy
We become imaginary
You have made laughter
to be caresses
You turned fear into comedy
Pulling the strings of hilarity
You have seized the best
(Loveland, Ohio, July 2015)
lunes, 13 de julio de 2015
By Eva Feld
Memorials often serve as masquerades. The beauty of an edifice may overtake the visitor to the point of bringing out certain feelings that bury sorrow and enhance pleasure.
It is dangerous to extrapolate examples from history to prove a point. Even past times may be submitted to variable interpretations, especially when dealing with victims of war and/or terrorism. Should the venues and sites of the battles be reconstructed the exact way they were before, or should there be a major intervention to heighten their significance? Should the names of the anonymous heroes be remembered by carving them in marble or by the generic concept of an unknown soldier?
The old city of Warsaw in Poland was indeed reconstructed with its ancient flair: little shops, cafes and restaurants to give the passerby a way to visit a site before the Second World War. A different approach than what was done in New York after the 9/11 attack, where a magnificent tower/museum/monument has been raised.
These are two emblematic approaches in two different continents, in two cities highly visited by tourists. Hence, less popular destinations are equally facing similar dilemmas. Such is the case of Višegrad in Bosnia Herzegovina, a multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious region formerly part of Yugoslavia, together with Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia and Kosovo. Only in Višegrad, more than 3,000 persons were killed during the last Balkan War, circa twenty years ago.
The bucolic layout of the city, by the Drina River, gives the visitor a false illusion. Only poetry and beauty are conceivable under the spring light of early June, maybe comparable to the impressionist heaven of Bougival near Paris. If it weren’t for the presence of a Mosque and of Muslim peasants, Višegrad would also resemble many Austro-Hungarian small cities, as it had been for centuries part of that Christian Monarchy as well. Višegrad had been also submitted to the Ottoman Empire so the people of Višegrad as in most of Bosnia Herzegovina have a syncretic background not without heavy resentment towards invasions. The most recent ones dating only a couple of decades ago, when fellow Yugoslavians, now calling themselves Serbians and Croatians wanted to part the region among them. Both neighboring countries, which were permanently at war between each other, agreed, nevertheless, upon attacking Bosnia Herzegovina in the name of Religion (besides, of course, political and economic reasons).
Now that the once united Yugoslavia is divided fairly peacefully in seven independent nations and three major religions, there are still some issues of common pride such as the nobility of Ivo Andric, the one and only Yugoslav Literary Nobel Prize Winner (1961) born in Višegrad Oct 9, 1892, who strongly believed in the Yugoslav unity and in Pan-Slavism.
Andric’s omnipresence in Višegrad has been super enhanced by the ruler’s decision of contracting in 2011, the famous and controversial movie director, architect, artist and actor Emir Kusturica, born Muslim in Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina) in 1954 and becoming Orthodox Christian en 2005, to conceive a stone city within Višegrad as a Memorial to Ivo Andric. The venue chosen was not other than where the 3,000 Bosniaks (Muslims) were executed.
On the 28th of June of this year (2015) Andricgrad celebrated its first anniversary under severe criticism by the radical conservationists but at the same time it has become a somewhat surreal space where people gather under a different façade in a scene conceived between marble and minimalism, hedonist and esthetic parameters and a grimace to Greco/Roman background.
Modernism is also present in the new stone city by displaying a diversity of movies from all over the world in an attractive cinema; by offering gastronomic variety together with their traditional food and, last but not least, by holding a small library where many famous writers can be found translated into Serbian along with The Bridge on the Drina, Andric’s winner novel. In there he describes the lives, destinies and relations of the local inhabitants during circa two centuries of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian administrations.
Nevertheless, there is no Mosque nor is there Catholicism in Andricgrad, there is only a small orthodox altar. There is no Pan-Slavism nor is there Ecumenism where Ivo Andric’s statue stands,in the center of the stone city.
As in many other countries and memorials, the visitors hardly know anything about the writer or his books; he has become an icon to be found on t-shirts and post-cards, a tourist attraction, a Slav Joyce, and the city dedicated to him, a masquerade that intends to bury sorrow and enhance pleasure.
Loveland, July 2015
lunes, 25 de mayo de 2015
Not just anybody is entitled to submit a name to the Swedish Academy. A nomination for the Nobel Prize has to come from a formal institution, such as a university, a previous Nobel Prize winner or a highly recognized syndicate. Therefore my taking a stand for a particular writer may be an act of arrogance. After all who am I but an “unfamous” Venezuelan writer with only five books in my portfolio and a slow reader.
The reasons for which I have decided to proclaim Leonardo Padura not only as a candidate but as the winner of such an honor may scandalize many professors and critics who may think that by doing so I am only asking for spotlights over myself. After all there are many important candidates who are standing in line, some of them for over a decade. The list includes prominent American authors such as Thomas Pynchon or Philipe Roth among others who have been neglected, according to me, to favor many writers, presumably for extra-literary reasons.
Extra-literary reasons? Yes! For what other reasons may have prevailed to overlook the brilliance in the use of the English language and the description of a society of both Pynchon and Roth displayed in Gravity’s Rainbow or American Pastoral?
Yes it is an individual selection but not an arbitrary one for what is Literature after all if not an essential manifestation of art as its best? It is indeed the art of weaving fiction and reality, prose and rhyme, nouns and adjectives, stories and feelings and ultimately treating the components of human nature as if they were pure chemical ingredients submitted to different conditions in search of possible and impossible reactions.
Developing drama, humor, candor and expertise is a writer’s goal for which he needs to submerge into history and the news as well as in his own experience and those of others. He needs to give life to characters and/or metaphors capable of illuminating the unknown.
These are some of the reasons for which I have chosen Leonardo Padura for this year’s Nobel Prize. He is a Cuban writer and journalist who not only lives in Havana but has never moved from the house where he was born sixty years ago. Furthermore, at least seven generations of the Padura family have lived in that same house. Leonardo claims that he knows everything and everyone in the hood. He also asserts that he needs every sound and every smell of his birthplace in order to be able to write.
He has become the mirror and the antennas of his fellow Cubans both inside the country and in exile because he has given them back not only the information they lack about themselves and their near history but also about the idiosyncrasy that would have presided them should the extremist voices been neutralized instead of enhanced over the years.
Padura has created a fictional detective and a series of his stories but above them, in the last ten years he has written two novels that are non-less than gigantic frescoes of the twentieth Century. The first one, Man Who Loved Dogs, already translated to fifteen languages, is a braid in which three characters who love dogs are brought together to enlighten the facts and emotions that lead a Catalan and communist militant to kill Trotsky in Mexico. It is by meeting an ordinary Cuban while they both walk their dogs on a beach, that the reader becomes familiar with all three dog lovers, Trotsky being the third one.
Through this vertebral spine, Padura is able to weave ideology, deception and expression, using not only the character’s personal stories and circumstances but actual artistic, political, economic and sensorial facts. When it was finally published in Cuba, his readers thanked him for what they had never before heard or read about. And that is the true nature of the word “novel” which derives from “novelty.”
It takes Padura about five years to write a mural-size novel. Two years ago he finished a second one titled Heretics. When asked about the title he answers that it is a term used to designate someone who, having been a strong believer, retracts in order to free himself. He is an advocate of freedom. He is against extremism, fanaticism, intemperance and that is probably why he is permanently being attacked by radical Cubans of both sides.
Through his newest novel he describes the Cubans in their diversity but his neuralgic research has to do with an exploration of how to attain and deal with free will: Either concerning the Jews in the Netherlands in the XVII Century or the personal choices of his contemporary characters.
Once again, Padura paints a fresco about the human nature. To accomplish that he even takes us to Rembrandt’s studio and brings us so close to him that we can smell his bad breath due to his rotten teeth. At the same time we can also smell the very cheap rum consumed by middle class Cubans or the fresh flesh and blood of disappointed youngsters in Havana who by cutting themselves express their desire of freedom.
Yes! Freedom is the cue word in Padura’s complex and beautifully written novels. And yes, he deserves the Nobel Prize both for literary reasons and political causes if it pleases the Academy.
Loveland OH, May 2015
martes, 28 de abril de 2015
One God-deceiving man
perceives the spectrum
Is it the Holy Ghost
Disguised in green neutrons?
Fearless he becomes himself:
A flash of Atomic electrons
A quantic solution
One God-fearing man
seizes his own image
Is he a mirror veiled by all senses?
or mere reflection of his credence?
Frightened, the believer becomes else:
A loud advocacy of an iron key dogma
He now owns a hypnotic cue