September 06, 2008

Sea of Many Returns

“In Acland Street, St Kilda, there stands a café called Scheherazade. As to how it came to have such a name, therein lies a story. Many stories in fact, recounted at a table in the back room where the proprietors, Mr and Mrs Zeleznikow, Avram and Masha, sit most nights of the week and eat, hold court, greet customers, check accounts, argue and reminisce. What else is there to do on this rain-sodden Melbourne night, as pedestrians rugged in overcoats stroll on pavements glistening grey… this is how it is in Acland Street, an avenue of old-world dreams.”

Arnold Zable lives in Melbourne, but he was born here in New Zealand which earned him the right to appear at Auckland City Libraries’ first New Zealand Book Month event, “Lounge around the Library on a Sunday morning” , happening - guess when - this Sunday morning, Sept. 7th at 10:30 am. In anticipation of this event, over the last couple of weeks I have been bringing his books over to my desk whenever I run into one, and tonight I opened the one called Café Scheherazade and was blown away by realising that Scheherazade - my Scheherazade - was not just a catchy title but the whole point of the book.

Arnold Zable is a child of Polish-Jewish refugees who writes and performs stories which he invents, or rather elaborates, out of his travels and his knowledge of Yiddish culture absorbed from listening to people like Avram and Masha, who really exist. David Roskies called Yiddish storytelling a “politics of rescue” for successive generations of displaced Jewish artists, I think because it is a traditional art which however is able to transcend the limits of geography, a portable tradition, if you will. And if the Yiddish culture was practically wiped out in Europe in the Holocaust, the last and greatest attack made on it but only one of many over two or three centuries, new shoots have come forth in the New World. Good for the New World!

Zable’s new book, which he just presented at the Christchurch Writers’ Festival before coming up to Auckland, is set in Ithaca and is called The Sea of Many Returns and has as its theme displacement, again, but also exile and nostalgia, what he calls the “ancient longing welling up from the sea”. He will be talking about his book with Denys Trussell, the poet who deemed Auckland the city of transience “rising / sinking on the isthmus shallows / that change forever with the sea”.

"To Melbourne’s first storytellers: the Wurundjeri and Bunurong people. And to all those who are still in search of a haven, a place they can call home."       -- Café Scheherazade, the dedication

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:30


Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.