Sunday, May 23, 2010

Light Fell, on authenticity and desire

Novelist and translator Evan Fallenberg will be the first to tell you he is currently living his dream, though, he cautions, it was a long time coming. He’s probably one of the most grateful people I’ve met.

His first novel, Light Fell (Soho, 2008) which won a slew of heavy-weight prizes, takes its title from the translation of a Talmudic expression nafal nehora, which describes a sudden and overwhelming desire.

After reading the book ns one grand sitting (I simply could not put it down), I would say this about the title: The light seems to reveal both who you are and what you really want. But it can be devastating and destructive if the subject of this falling light is not willing to make enormous sacrifices or endure the consequences of knowledge. As often as not, this knowledge makes you change (or end) your life. The light does not promise joy and ecstasy, but rather, authenticity.

And though the book is not autobiographical, a point about which Fallenberg is adamant, for good reason, it does deal with the issues the author had been grappling. Indeed, they are issues that anyone who wants to lead an examined life have: How does one balance being true to oneself with being true to one’s family, who often transform us to fit the shape of their needs? How do we reconcile genuine religious beliefs and love of G-d with our innermost self, if who we really are is not recognized by other practitioners of our faith?

Evan Fallenberg’s authenticity is evident in the joy and delight he takes in sharing the beautiful home he and his partner have made in Bitan Aharon, a Moshav. And he is very generous in sharing this space. (And yes, he does have a swimming pool in his living room).

He has created The Studio, a center for writers and readers of English, a space for readings, celebrations, workshops and retreats.

The studio is built on the grounds of a nursery, flanked by a field of flowers. The nursery, one of the most extensive I’ve ever seen in Israel, sells, among other fragrant and gorgeous flora, a type frangipani that was named for Fallenberg’s partner, Yariv, who discovered it.

Fallenberg’s authenticity also shines through his literary translations, which include Meir Shalev’s A Pigeon and a Boy, Ron Leshem’s Beaufort, Alon Hilu’s Death of a Monk and Batya Gur’s Murder in Jerusalem. As a practicing translator, I believe that self-knowledge is one of the most necessary tools in translation. To translate well, one must be able to recognize when one's own obsessions and world view are filtering the words of the writer. In order to lose oneself in the text one translates, one must first know where he or she begins and ends.

Fallenberg the translator makes himself a luminous pathway between the reader and the writer. He himself is invisible, but his work makes the original text glow.

His second novel When We Could Dance on Water has been acquired by Harper Collins, and is slated for a 2011 publication. I can’t wait to read it.

1 comment:

  1. Photo is Evan Fallenberg and Amalia Sulak in Fallenberg's home, Bitan Aharon.