Cur­ricu­lum Vitae

Yoel Hoff­mann; Peter Cole, trans.
  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

To Yoel Hoff­mann, assem­bling a life sto­ry is like try­ing to gath­er up an infi­nite num­ber of pearls from a bro­ken string and col­lect­ing at most a hun­dred.” This uncon­ven­tion­al auto­bi­og­ra­phy evokes a life lived in Israel and Japan in exact­ly one hun­dred dream­like vignettes, each one relat­ed to but dis­con­nect­ed from the next. 

Hoffmann’s mem­o­ries are as much sen­so­ry impres­sions, free asso­ci­a­tions, and flights of imag­i­na­tion as they are facts.” For him a tra­di­tion­al nar­ra­tive would be arti­fi­cial and untrue to the expe­ri­ence of liv­ing; he sees cause and effect as an illu­sion. We run into each oth­er like balls on a bil­liard table, and the only thing left is the sound of the knock­ing,” he reflects. 

Sound, col­or, the will­ful pecu­liar­i­ties of mem­o­ry, and the sur­re­al qual­i­ties of the imag­i­na­tion con­stant­ly fas­ci­nate the writer, much like car­toons. He remem­bers one where the cat’s heart flew out of its body (it was attached by a spring) because of the love that the body has trou­ble con­tain­ing.” That won­der­ful phrase, in Peter Cole’s lap­idary trans­la­tion, has the com­pres­sion and human­i­ty that are char­ac­ter­is­tic of Hoffmann’s account of a life. Death is also on his mind, as in a heart-stop­ping sequence of haiku he imag­ines in the minds of peo­ple about to be mur­dered at a Nazi death camp. 

This lacon­ic book is aston­ish­ing in its con­trol, for­mal inven­tion, wide-rang­ing inter­ests, and its pow­er to pro­voke and to touch.

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