by Naama Goldstein

Telling in Silence

A major Israeli powerhouse tells her story

In the gripping title story of the collection Hold On to the Sun by Michal Govrin (The Feminist Press, $16.95), a scholar of liturgy is haunted by the notion that the Jerusalem streets he traverses are only the fleeting product of his passage, nonexistent before he walks through them and afterwards erased. In the course of a research project, he finds himself in a murky Judaica shop in an ultra-Orthodox enclave. Does the shop truly exist? What matters more is his discovery of an old artifact relating to an obscure, possibly imaginary and probably heretical and dangerous interpretation of the evening prayer, Maariv. Govrin’s story, which reads like the literary progeny of Edgar Allan Poe and the 19th-century halachist Shlomo Ganzfried, links prayer, art, and paganism with the twin human strivings for perpetuity and destruction. It leaves us, and the scholar, at once uplifted and disturbed, and unable to tie it all neatly together.

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