In this poetic and appealing novel, author Nurit Zarchi shapes her own private mythology, her years as a special child, lonely and unusual, forced to live within social confines that obliterate her "self." This is also the story of a rather typical childhood and adolescence in Jerusalem, on kibbutz and on a small settlement during the 1940s and 1950s. The story describes the difficulties prevalent during these years between idealists who always knew what was best and what was right.
The heroine-narrator author never seemed to get along or fit in. "If I had been born in Sparta rather than Jerusalem," she reflects, "they would have banged my head against a rock, as they did to the other flawed infants." Zarchi does not consider the facts themselves to be important, hence the story does not unfold as an organized biography. She focuses on those details, seemingly irrelevant, that build her emotional biography as an artist, sharing with us the story of the time she lost her shoes. There was a tremendous fuss, because the kibbutz only supplied new shoes on the New Year and Passover holidays, and everyone thought that the defiant young girl had lost her shoes on purpose. She was sent to the shoemaker's shed, a dark niche where two shoemakers sat on benches, like a pair of elves. She felt like Cinderella in this magical world, and was awarded an unexpected prize -- a pair of purple shoes, wonderful and special, that apparently no one had wanted. Our heroine left the shoemaker's shed feeling triumphant, like a true princess. Her purple shoes testified to her social status.
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Zarchi, in her thin, beautiful autobiographical volume, courageously unravels the factual basis of the autobiography: the existence of the 'self' that one can count on, walk a certain path with, and in the end, withdraw to view the 'story' from a distance.