Arts & Culture

Israeli Fiction: “Raining Neighbors”

One of the most impressive magazines to appear amidst the recent profusion of literary journals in Israel is Masmerim, meaning “nails.” Edited by publishing veterans, Masmerim features the same kind of high caliber writing and slick format of Britain’s Granta. … Read More

By / June 9, 2008

One of the most impressive magazines to appear amidst the recent profusion of literary journals in Israel is Masmerim, meaning “nails.” Edited by publishing veterans, Masmerim features the same kind of high caliber writing and slick format of Britain’s Granta. Zeek is happy to collaborate with Masmerim’s editors and writers this month to bring American readers the work of new talents Michal Zamir and Zvi Triger. Michal Zamir’s “Raining Neighbors” offers an ironic detachment from tragedy, while Zvi Triger’s “Everybody’s Autobiography Returns,” one part of a trilogy, cloaks grief in the language of technical writing.– Adam Rovner, translations editor

"RAINING NEIGHBORS"

Saturday morning. My neighbor was trimming his climbing bush. My neighbor has British roots. In England he studied law or accounting. At about age sixty he developed a thing for gardening. My neighbor doesn’t live in the adjacent apartment, but rather in the penthouse that’s in the building across from me. I laid myself down on the sofa in the living room, and read a book. Is it a coincidence that I was reading Paul Auster? Is it a coincidence that exactly at the moment I took my eyes off my neighbor, he and the small, red hedge trimmer were falling seven stories?

What happened afterwards was expected: a scream, seemingly his wife’s. Next: young screams, seemingly his daughters’. In their wake: the screams of curious neighbors from adjacent buildings, and just plain screamers who screamed at the opportunity. Just minutes after that, when the screams subsided (that is to say, when the uproar died down)–a buzz of shock, sighs of pity, and even breast-beating here and there–the air was cut by an ambulance’s siren. Since it was eleven in the morning on Saturday, you could say this alarmed the neighborhood, but the neighborhood was already in a deep state of alarm. In any case, it was, without a doubt, a sound unusual in its quality and strength.

The truth is that speed was more important for honoring the dead than for saving him, since the red hedge trimmer had cut deep into the flesh of his thigh. He didn’t have a chance. From the seventh floor to the crumbling asphalt of the parking lot with a hedge trimmer in his thigh… It all happened quickly, with an apologetic speed, a speed that sought to spare others from the horror, a speed that took into consideration parents of small children, causing an uproar that put off the impact for a few seconds.

We, the neighbors, remained bewildered. At least I was. The penthouse had a raised railing–the neighbor must have put a lot of effort into his fall. To really want to fall. But there always remains a doubt; maybe he felt like trimming some rebellious branch, maybe his aspiration for perfection was his undoing, and which brought upon him his end. I preferred that possibility. I prefer possibilities with lessons. I like to learn something from what happens, something that can be avoided, something to be cautious about, maybe even something that can be phrased as principle, the same principle that my dentist always repeats: “The enemy of the good is the very good.”

But I’m insistent. I don’t think there’s any reason for the kind of black, metallic crescent he gave me, visible to the eye between the crown and gums. It’s not at all a question of the relationship between the good and the very good. Either the crown is done the way it should be, or it’s a farce. To call it “good” just rubs it in my face, because, , I don’t have the money to waste on another crown in a year or two’s time, and also because it’s clear that the crown doesn’t meet any aesthetic criteria.

At night it’s hard for me to fall sleep. I feel my teeth falling one after the other, hitting the asphalt of the parking lot, as if it’s raining neighbors.

 

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Zeek‘s Hebrew translations are made possible by a grant from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, supported by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Please direct submissions and queries to editors[at]zeek.net

AUTHOR:

 

Michal Zamir is the author of an erotic novel, 12 Pgishot [Tel Aviv: Katom, 2004], and a collection of linked stories about women serving in the Israeli military, Sfinat HaBanot [Tel Aviv: Xargol, 2005]. Zamir studied at Tel Aviv University, where she received an M.A. in Yiddish literature. She lives in Tel Aviv.

TRANSLATOR:

 

Michael Grazi is a third year student at Hofstra University completing a B.S. in Music Composition and a B.A. in Sociology. Prior to attending college, Michael studied at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem. He translated this story as part of a tutorial offered by Hofstra University’s Department of Comparative Literature and Languages.