Abraham B. Yehoshua: “Forgetfulness frees us Jews from the tyranny of memory” | Culture


Abraham B. Yehoshua, in a 2019 image.
Abraham B. Yehoshua, in a 2019 image.Leonardo Cendamo / Getty Images

Abraham Bulli (family nickname) Yehoshua, the lesser-known, and perhaps the most lucid, novelist of an exceptional trio of internationally acclaimed Hebrew storytellers, along with Amos Oz and David Grossman, delves into the darkness of Alzheimer’s in The tunnel, his last work in Spanish. Halfway between realism and symbolism, he describes an everyday life strewn with allegories that tries to shed light, amid the confusion of the disease, on the identity of the Jewish State. Also about his own, to try to redeem himself from the desolation over the death of his wife, Rivka, with whom he lived for 56 years, precisely while writing this book, now edited by Duomo and translated from the Hebrew by Raquel García Lozano.

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Yehoshua explains by phone that he is ill. He postpones the appointment with EL PAÍS because of a visit to the hospital and prefers to maintain the conversation at a distance to dive into the keys it contains The tunnel about his vision of Israel. He no longer wants to receive visitors at his home, near Tel Aviv, where he lives alone. When a speedy recovery is desired, he replies with a doubt: “I don’t know. Since my wife died, nothing is like before ”.

“I have been a writer who has dealt with all the crises and conflicts in the family, but I firmly believe in marriage,” he acknowledges. It is one of the central axes of his work, with peaks such as A late divorce. “The loss of Rivka was a great disaster for me. The disease took her away in just two months. After his death, it took me time to recover and finish the book, ”he says. “I followed the thread of the story where I left it, and deep down she helped me finish it.” On The tunnel, Dina, the wife of the protagonist, the septuagenarian Zvi Luria, pushes him to continue working altruistically in his profession as a civil engineer, despite being retired, to stop the advance of senile dementia.

Born in Jerusalem 84 years ago, AB Yehoshua, who usually signs his works with both initials, shared with Oz, who died in 2018, and Grossman, a vision favorable to peace with the Palestinians, with two separate states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, but today it no longer sees possible more than a single State.

Yehoshua says he is sick. When a speedy recovery is desired, he replies with a doubt: “I don’t know. Since my wife died, nothing is like before “

“In Hebrew there are two terms to describe senile dementia. One refers to something dark and another refers to embarrassment. This last meaning is the one I used: somewhat confusing ”, details the author of The freed bride. “Memory is a central issue in Jewish identity, which is not based on historical events, but on mythology, such as the destruction of the temple. [de Jerusalén, en el año 70]”.

It maintains that identity is based on faith. He also warns that in recent years, when Jewish society has begun to fragment between secular and religious, nationalists and supporters of peace, Ashkenazis and Sephardim, “the collective memory, instead of enlightening them, has become divisive. That is why I granted Zvi Luria the privilege of forgetting the reality that surrounds us ”, he clarifies.

“Is that why you put a tattoo on your arm, like the Jews in Auschwitz?”

–Actually, it is only a technical resource to be able to navigate through your life. Always forget the alarm code to be able to activate your car. If you depended on a piece of paper in your pocket, illness would lead you to lose it. It makes sense to engrave it on your own body. It is a practical thing. Anyway, by activating his car, Zvi is overcome into oblivion and escapes his personal Holocaust.

“A third of our people died for nothing. Not because of territory, not because of religion, not because of ideology, not because of money or something material, “he says.

Oblivion frees us Jews from the tyranny of memory. I believe that we must free ourselves from the disaster of more than six million Jews being killed. A third of our people died for nothing. Not because of territory, not because of religion, not because of ideology, not because of money or something material ”, condenses the weight of the memory of the extermination in the life of his people.

The son of the Sephardic diaspora, Yehoshua’s ancestors came to Jerusalem from the eastern Mediterranean in the mid-19th century, when there were very few Jews in the Holy Land. “My father spoke Ladino with his family, but with my mother, originally from Morocco, he spoke in French, so I did not learn Judeo-Spanish”, justifies the absence of that paternal cultural legacy while his voice sometimes fades on the other side of the phone and, from time to time, gets fired up.

Think that The tunnel It is a response to the division of Israeli society: “We must create communications between the different sectors. It is very important for such a small country to open underground communication channels. That is the meaning of the tunnel that is dug in the novel to save a Palestinian family ”.

“Despite all the efforts that some of us made in the past in favor of the two-state solution, I believe that it no longer works,” he argues.

“Despite all the efforts that some of us made in the past in favor of the two-state solution, I believe that it no longer works,” he argues about his departure from the prevailing thesis in the Israeli left and in the international community. . “One of the reasons is the colonialism of the settlements in the West Bank. That has been Israel’s great mistake, which now makes us incapable of applying the two-state solution. “

– And the one of a single State?

-I do not know. Maybe a federal model, like Belgium. Or confederal, like Switzerland. We have to find a way out. Today there are about two million Palestinians living as Israelis, with full nationality [a pesar de la reciente ola de violencia intercomunal]. They live with us in hospitals, also in universities, in factories. The fact that an Arab political party has joined the current government coalition is very positive.

In his inner journey through oblivion and forgetfulness, The tunnel travel to the crater of Ramon, in the deep Negev, and evokes the father of the nation and first head of government, David Ben Gurion. The desert is usually very present in Yehoshua’s work. “Ben Gurion asked us Israelis to inhabit the south, almost half of our territory. He led by example and settled in a kibutz [granja agrícola israelí en régimen de cooperativa] in the desert. But the rest of us don’t follow him. Instead of settling in the West Bank, protected by the Army, and disrupting the lives of the Palestinians, the settlers could have gone to the Negev and transformed it into an orchard “, concludes the anatomy class on his book, connected with the foundational utopia of the Jewish state.


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