Almost 200 gracefully composed poetic vignettes about the inner and outer lives of a writer in modern-day Israel.
This wry, gentle, and unique composition by Hoffmann (Curriculum Vitae, 2009, etc.), translated by his longtime collaborator Cole (The Invention of Influence, 2014, etc.), serves as a witty follow-up to his fictional but similarly structured memoirlike book, The Heart is Katmandu (2001). Here, the author plays himself, but his observations on life in Galilee are no less whimsical than those of his characters. “It’s hard to believe that all this is taking place within a book,” he writes. “The people must be very small.” There is a unique energy in the freedom the author has allowed himself here as he moves from observations on relationships and family to literary criticism to observational portraits of beautiful places, like candles floating on the surface of a Japanese lake. In one sad shard, the author offers a litany of things that might break our hearts: “One-eyed cats. Junkyards. The stairwells of old buildings. A small boy on his way to school.” But there’s a sense of humor floating just beneath the surface. After describing a story in which a man sues the banquet hall after injuring his foot while stomping on a glass, as is traditional, at the end of his wedding, Hoffmann offers this rebuttal. “Imagine for a moment the crucified one coming down from the cross and hiring a lawyer,” writes our bemused author. “He’d have thrown history off its course, and who knows what disasters might have ensued.” Even when Hoffmann throws a few barbs at book critics, they’re drolly funny. “As for war,” he writes. “They should call up reserves of literary critics. They’d vanquish the enemy with their weighty pronouncements. Afterwards, the critics could enlist the lethal forces of verbal contortion and extensive annotation to verify that the enemy in fact had been crushed.”
Vividly self-aware echoes of one man’s fertile imagination.