An elegant and graceful translation of Yehoshua’s 2011 Hesed Sefaradi, a novel about an aging Israeli director reviewing both his films and his life.
Yair Moses and his longtime companion, Ruth, are visiting Santiago de Compostela for a three-day retrospective of his long career. It’s appropriate that the screenings be in Santiago, for Moses is also making a pilgrimage of sorts, viewing early work he hasn’t seen for 40 years. Ruth was his major actress in these early films and at the time, was the lover of Trigano, a brilliant screenwriter and former student of Moses—though they had a falling out about a delicate scene in a film and for years have barely talked to each other. Much of the first part of the novel is taken up by Moses’ complex and sometimes bewildered reaction to his films from the ’60s, for in those films, he had an “absurdist” aesthetic that he’d later gotten away from. He’s both bemused and perplexed to see his films dubbed in Spanish, a language he doesn’t understand. He’s also fascinated almost to the point of obsession by a painting in his hotel room, a 17th-century Dutch work depicting an ancient Roman story of Cimon being nursed by his daughter Pera, a scene eerily reminiscent of a segment he’d cut from an earlier movie, the very scene that caused the break between Moses and his screenwriter. Upon his return to Israel, Moses feels the need to get in touch with the prickly Trigano, who feels he’s largely responsible for Moses’ early success.
Yehoshua’s intelligent and refined novel recalls once again Faulkner’s famous dictum that “the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”