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Hold on to the Sun

Michal Govrin, Edited by Judith G. Miller

Publication Year: 2010

Michal Govrin, one of Israel’s most important contemporary writers, explores the post-Holocaust world through fiction and essays. Govrin uses a multiplicity of literary styles and voices to capture the denial and exuberance of discovering oneself alive when so much has been destroyed. Several essays deal with her visits to Europe, especially Auschwitz, which her mother survived, and her half-brother did not.

Published by: The Feminist Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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Contents

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pp. ix-xii

Won't You See

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pp. 1-2

The Journey to Poland

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Part I: A Retrospective note from Jerusalem, 1997

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pp. 4-24

In late October 1975, when I was in my early twenties and completing my doctorate in Paris, I went to Poland. An almost impossible journey then for a young woman, alone, with an Israeli passport, at the time when there were no diplomatic relations between the Eastern Bloc and Israel. It was only because of a French-Jewish friend, who turned me...

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Part II: Letter from the Regions of Delusion

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pp. 25-40

Paris, November 2, 1975
My dears,
Back home—what a relief!
A week in Poland is like a year, like years, like a moment. Ever since the visa was approved, a week before the trip, I felt as if I were facing an operation. I was waiting for something to stop me, for an iron curtain to block the way. And even in the dark, when the bus took us from the plane to...

La Promenade

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Part I

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pp. 41-87

“For the time being we can rest here,” said Monyek Heller when they reached the bench at the edge of the beach. “It’s nice here, opposite the ocean.” And the soft sound of the Polish words in his mouth was accompanied by an interrogative lilt.
“Fine, fine.” Lusia Taft nodded, the same little smile on the face of her short body expressing part submission, part...

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Part ii

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pp. 88-98

One hundred million old francs, not bad, not bad! Good, good—Hirshel Feingold stampeded down the esplanade, and the pale, milky light bounced the reflection of the beach and the strings of brightly colored pennants on his green-lensed glasses. His forehead shone, and a little star of mirrored sunlight shimmered on his bald head. After bursting through the knot of German-speaking tourists, he took...

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Part iii

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pp. 99-112

“Can you still stand?” joked Monyek Heller, when they finally emerged from the Hotel Excelsior that afternoon.
“So much food, I’m not used to it any more,” said Lusia Taft in a low voice.
They stood there for a moment, a few steps from the hotel entrance at the point where the path leading down to the beach split off from the esplanade....

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Between Two and Four

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pp. 113-122

Every day between two and four the little girl was left by herself. The first few moments of those two hours—hours that would soon freeze until the world returned, thawing into its normal course—were still taken up by the usual routine that followed the meal. The mother piled the dishes into the sink to wait for after their nap, and the father filled the little kitchen—already steeped in the smells of vegetable...

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Elijah's Sabbath Days

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pp. 123-140

Although Elijah returned to Jerusalem a few hours before sunset, he didn’t get in touch with Hila before the Sabbath had begun. The sun was nearing the strip of haze above the ridge of buildings on the horizon; the bedspread on his couch was disappearing into the dark blue shades of its pattern, and he was still busy cleaning the dust that had accumulated during the week in his room which faced the valley...

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Evening Ride

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pp. 141-144

She was leaving the house when twilight had already begun. The faint blue light of the setting sun filled the yard. A sudden break in the clouds cast shadows despite the lateness of the hour. In truth, she didn’t really know how late it was. Since coming to the house she had gradually lost the habit of looking at her watch, and in the end she’d taken it...

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Jet Lag

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pp. 145-156

He set out on a short business trip. Only a few days roundtrip. The names of the distant cities written on his ticket were like points on a child’s globe. Without lengthy goodbyes, he parted from her early in the evening and hurried to the cab already waiting in the street. He didn’t notice when he traveled down the hill and out of the city limits because he was busy studying his list of appointments; and...

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The End of the Pythia

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pp. 157-168

Many years ago, before the seething land came to rest, in a remote district between high mountains, in a broad valley surrounded by cliffs—full of milling crowds, noisy trams, and hooting trains—lay the greatest entertainment empire which ever existed. The City Fathers had covered the swampy soil of the valley with earth and planks, and in the course of time its bed was stamped down by the feet of revelers...

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The Dance of the Thinker

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pp. 169-172

It began in the days of the great disasters, when hopelessness and despondency covered the land like manure and brought forth blossoms of despair. There was nothing then to strengthen the spirit of man. Only he, the thinker, rose up like a lion to compose his dissertation on the subject of despair. He discovered double meanings and hidden meanings in destruction, and his thoughts reached extraordinary...

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Rites of Spring

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pp. 173-192

The origins of this story stem from something I heard in my infancy, in those years which lie sunken beneath the roots of events, and which, when looked at in the burning light of reason, leave nothing but fine ash behind them. The incidents were related by two unfamiliar guests who turned up to share our family meal, and who, as well as I can remember, never visited our home again. Although the...

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Hold On To The Sun

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pp. 193-212

Some of the old neighborhoods of Jerusalem give me rather a strange feeling as I pass through them, as if they existed only for as long as I traverse them, springing up mysteriously from somewhere or other, my own imagination, perhaps, or even memories predating my birth, to stand there before I enter. Quickly the laundry is hung out on the long balconies, and children in black caftans come out to resume...

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Facing Evil: Thoughts on a Visit to Auschwitz

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pp. 213-224

Discussions are currently underway about restoring the Auschwitz Museum, which was established on the grounds of the concentration camp two years after World War II. I visited the museum last summer as part of a writing journey in which I followed in the footsteps of my mother. When I returned to Israel after the visit, bewildered by what I had seen, I was asked to share my thoughts with the Auchwitz museum’s advisory committee...

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Selichot* In Krakow: Migrations of a Melody

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pp. 225-232

The only one of my mother’s melodies to remain is the sing-song of the shamosh† from the Remuh Synagogue in Krakow, as he passed at night through the streets of the ancient ghetto, Kazimierz, knocking on the window shutters and waking the Jews for selichot, the early morning service before the high holidays. “Yidelekh, yidelekh, tayere koshere yidelekh, shteyen oyf, shteyen oyf lavoydes haboyre uleslikhes."...

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A Conversation Between Michal Govrin and Judith G. Miller

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pp. 233-268

JM: I’d like to start by situating the stories and the essays in this collection within your work as an Israeli writer. Here’s my quick summary of your trajectory: You began writing poetry as a child in the 1960s and you still do. You direct theater; you have published two novels; you’re writing a third; you’ve compiled the memoirs of your father and...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 269-272

Credits

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pp. 273-275

About the Feminist Press

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E-ISBN-13: 9781558616745
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558616738

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Jewish Women Writers