“Creaking Chairs,” a story by Igal Mossinsohn (from 50 STORIES FROM ISRAEL: AN ANTHOLOGY, Edited by Zisel Stavi)

Self bought the anthology when she was in Tel Aviv.  She found it in a bookstore only a few minutes’ walk from the apartment on Rupin Street.  It was 2008.  Beloved Sister-in-law Ying was being treated in Ichilov Hospital; she would live a few more months.

The story self began reading this morning is by Igal Mossinsohn (1917-1994), translated from the Yiddish by Sara Friedman.  The main character is Gabriel Malin, an aging actor who, one day, is unexpectedly approached by a young girl from the kibbutz.  The girl dreams of joining the theater and has come to Malin for guidance.

The scene has the girl telling Malin:

“I didn’t think it would be as smooth as olive oil all the way.  Difficulties?  Obviously.  But the question is, can one study, improve?  Will they give me a chance to try my hand at it?”

Gabriel Malin walked over to her, laid his hands on her narrow shoulders, felt her hair lightly brushing them.  She saw faded eyes, lashless lids.  The smell of cognac drifted from his mouth mixed with that of tobacco and shaving soap.

“You have a life to live,” he said.  “Listen, my girl, it’s no life at all, don’t you understand?”

She understood nothing.  For a moment she thought he was reciting a part.  Theatricals, she thought, should more properly be confined to the stage, while in life it was preferable to speak simply and not dig unfamiliar fingers into her shoulders, not to fix lashless eyes into her own.

“Old people shuffle around onstage,” he added.  “Old!  If they had trained a younger generation to learn from their experience, had encouraged them, well then . . .  But . . .  A man onstage must be credible, convincing!  The stage offers an illusion — but when a fifty-year-old actor plays a youth — and plays him badly, what would you call that?  Still, the audience keeps coming.  Thanks to whom, may I ask?  Thanks to a few sublime actors.  There you are.  For it is art!  It is sacred! No one has the power to drag Gabriel Malin off the stage, because Gabriel Malin loves the artificial lights, the costumes, the dusty floorboards, the audience, even if, possibly, he is inept.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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