Writing in the Dark: Essays on Literature and Politics

Writing in the Dark: Essays on Literature and Politics

by David Grossman

Recent essays on Israel, literature, and language from one of the country's most respected and best-loved voicesThroughout his career, David Grossman has been a voice for peace and reconciliation between Israel and its Arab citizens and neighbors.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 4.13
  • Pages: 144
  • Publish Date: September 30th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Isbn10: 0374281106
  • Isbn13: 9780374281106

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'Among the tortures and devastations of life is this then- our friends are not able to finish their stories.' Virginia Woolf 'The Waves' Today I know that at ten I discovered that books are the place in the world where both the thing and the loss of it can coexist. I kind of ruined this review for ever writing it by writing it in my head while I was doing other stuff like working or driving. In my head I loved when Grossman discovered that his father wanted to show him where he had lived when he gave him his favorite stories from childhood. I take a lot of words and feelings inside myself from what I read and hear to hope against the opposite ends of my anti-words that they will be enough when I need them. That Eric put Rilke's book on his "hearts-laid-bare" shelf got me to thinking a lot about writers who make it "safe" for sensitive people, like I feel Rilke does, like making the world degrees warmer enough for survival. But my favorite is when Emilie said about Martin Millar in her comment thread for his Lonely Werewolf Girl(I would read this forever and be happy) that she felt that he was writing friends for himself. I have been afraid of writing friends for myself because it takes a lot of materials to be able to create in this way. My feeling is that it has taken Martin Millar so long to finish writing the third Kalix book because of this. David Grossman has this world of scales in miniature and when you feel small like a kid again of writing for yourself. He gets it like no one else I know of but Emilie and probably Martin Millar have understood. You want to write it all, your outside and insides, and it is really scary because you know what you are missing and you can't do it all. It's when you want to write for someone else but it is really a hope about that missing part of yourself. I felt so much better when Emilie wrote about that because I struggle a lot to be understood. I know he does because he wrote about it in Writing in the Dark. I've read different translators working with Grossman's material. I discover that the mere act of writing about arbitrariness allows me to feel a freedom of movement in relation to it. Grossman writes about the books that have read me. The best feeling I have known is going inside a story and what happens in it takes on a reality that unfolds if you could understand your own life. (This was his inspiration for one of my favorite books, The Book of Intimate Grammar.) If you could be set free and love from the same source, to write and hold yourself up, then you could live in books and live outside of the books. I can't tell you how reassuring it was to me to read this when I was feeling so alone outside of the written word. I really, really didn't want to have to keep on writing friends for myself. So my feeling a couple of months ago when I started review writing this review in my head was literary examples. I was too depressed to try to write this review until I started thinking about just admitting that I need the words of other people.

Beautiful essays on writing, war and peace (not to be confused with Tolstoy's book on writing "War and Peace")*.

What I appreciate about how Grossman talks about the conflict and Palestine's future is that his peacenik views didn't change after the death of his son, Uri, in the Lebanese War. I think this dedication to peace is admirable, but also recognize that, since I don't have children, or children who have died in a senseless war, I can't really judge how people in that position react. This book also resonated with me as an American, as the United States is largely responsible for much of the world's misery, in Israel and many, many other places. Every lunch of my childhood was spent listening to the sounds of this quiet lament." "I feel the heavy price that I and the people around me pay for this prolonged state of war. Part of this price is a shrinking of our soul's surface area--those parts of us that touch the violent, menacing world outside--and a diminished ability and willingness to empathize at all with other people in pain.

He writes about the danger to the Jewish soul (and to Israel, as a democracy ruled by justice and compassion) that the current stalemate in the middle east has wrought.

The politics, of course, is that of Israel, where Grossman was born and raised, a land that has known no peace or settled borders since long before its founding. Whether peace ever comes, there will be, he notes, much for the world to do to eliminate hatred of the Jewswitness in the US how the far right is home to both strong pro-Israel and anti-Semitic beliefs and hysteria. As a boy Grossman knew nothing of Yiddish literature or of life of Jews in Europe but then, at age 8, his father gave him a book by Sholem Aleichem and the connection was immediate even if the understanding came later. From here, in this fabulous essay, Grossman advances to his work and how the questions provoked from the loss he felt with this epiphany were the ones he wrestled with in his workthe arbitrariness of an external force, for example, citing four of his books with a different external force: See Under: Love it was Nazism; The Smile of the Lamb and Yellow Wind it was a self-described enlightened military occupation; and in The Book of Intimate Grammar the victim is the soul and the external force the unequivocal quality of flesh it inhabits. Grossman is a master of world literature blessed with a questioning soul and a commitment to the liberal humanism shared by others, including Clive James and Marilynne Robinson and others.

In 2007, his novels The Book of Internal Grammar and See Under: Love were named among the ten most important books since the creation of the State of Israel.