Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Excerpts from Yoel Hoffmann's new book, translated from the Hebrew.

[54] This book is a book of states of mind. You can call it moods.
Sometimes we love and sometimes we hate. And there are times when we hate the things we used to love or love the things we used to hate and there is no end to such things.
We used to hate spiders but now we love them. Especially those with skinny legs and round bodies. And since we don’t scare them away (as others do) they spin their webs in all sorts of places and roam the floor and walls and sometimes they stand all night long above the bed, almost touching the nose.
And as we sit at the table and prepare to write, a spider approaches the paper and stands on the words.

[95] This is the solution to the Zen riddle about the sound of the one hand, as well as the solution to the agonies of man about which Sigmund Freud spoke. Namely, that someone will touch someone else and so forth.
We think that the readers should use this book to look for another human being. For example, they should drop it in a bar or a pub and lift it up and ask a woman, Is this yours? Or they should place on it two glasses of red wine (we will make sure that it will be big enough). Or they should stab it with a dagger and say, If the dagger will touch the word love you come with me (we will make sure to spread the word everywhere). Or they should say, If your back hurts you better put under your head something stiff (for this reason we will publish a special hard-cover edition).
Once (we remember) we used to put books on chairs to reach high places.

[153] The readers always need to see the paper behind the words. Not the one that was there before the words were written, but the one that arises after they have been read.
Don’t believe those physicists who speak about specific gravity. The things that you see, even if they seem to be heavy, are the materials of dreams. And don’t even believe that. A dream is in itself a dream.

Nevertheless, when you see large things like a hippopotamus or a sumo wrestler you are tempted to ascribe to them exaggerated actuality. It was very difficult, for instance, to doubt my stepmother Franciska. But once we knew a very fragile woman, who appeared and disappeared like a hologram. It was very easy to doubt her existence but the longings for her were extremely painful.

[154] Because of these longings that are very hard to bear novels with three hundred and even six hundred pages are being written for all of you, full with countless human beings that come and go, like a medicine cabinet filled with Tylenol pills.

You need to place one of those novels in front of a raven. Or, if you wish, a turtle.
Once a raven entered through the main door and stood on the kitchen table. It first pecked at some breadcrumbs and then froze in its place and stared at us.
This is why we write all these things. If we knew what the raven saw when it looked at us, we would reveal it to the readers instead of this book. But because we don’t know we write and write.


Matt said...

I first stumbled upon your blog a few months ago while doing some Agamben research. Since then, I've been reading past posts sporadically and feared that there would be no new updates. I'm glad to see that you're back at it. Keep up the work.

Anonymous said...

One of the most important blogs around. Glad to see some new words - thank you for sharing the translations.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, thank you.