In this collection, Ronit Matalon looks at Israeli life and culture and interprets them through stories about her family and childhood in a rundown immigrant neighborhood populated mainly by Mizrahim, Jews from Arab countries. It opens with a series of autobiographical essays, each of which can be read as a short story. These are followed by essays on photography and the plastic arts, thoughts about people coping with various situations, political essays, and comments on literature. There are also portraits of writers, artists and intellectuals sketched with powerful imaginative force. The book as a whole portrays the "Israeli condition" with its rifts and contradictions, its stormy drama of identities and the dialogue between its Mizrahi voice and hegemonic Zionist discourse.
A central theme is Matalon’s engagement with Middle Eastern identity and the positive aspects of the meeting between Western and Oriental cultures - the intellectual openness, sensitivity to the suffering of the other side, and
understanding for the positions of those considered the enemy. Her political essays deal with the First Intifada and describe visits to Gaza and Palestinian refugee camps that leave impressions still relevant today.
In Matalon’s work, there is no distinction between the personal and the national, and she reveals unexpected convergences in a warm tone full of humor, sympathy and compassion.
PARTIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
Matalon’s photographic stance … is not only a stylistic, esthetic question, but also a political one – the politics of how we look, and see. Matalon performs marvelously … In the deafening, blinding reality that we live in, there’s something right about the distance that Matalon forces upon herself in her writing … It is precisely that distance that forces us to come nearer, to get our ears closer, and to focus our eyes.
Author Dov Elbaum
Hats off to Ronit Matalon for this impressive collection of essays … There’s a subtle, impressive discernment and a clarity that never oversimplifies … A very wise woman [who writes] with sensitive relevancy … Matalon’s basic theoretical position also creates a kind of distance … but that distance makes the personal pieces trenchant and interesting.
Matalon writes with vitality, strength and humor … Matalon is blessed a talent for writing, but more than that, with many talents for different kinds of writing. And this abundance is infectious. You read her, and your finger itches to turn the page and read more.
Prof. Nissim Calderon
With her everything, even the highly personal, immediately converges with the political, so that Matalon’s collection deals with Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, with Jews and Palestinians, with reading and writing … in a rationalist, analytical, precise style that makes no concessions to the reader.
In this rich collection, there is contemplation of the "Israeli condition" as well as of the human condition – as seen by one pair of eyes, those of Ronit Matalon whose vision discerns each and every detail.