Maayan Eitan at the 72nd Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards Celebration

Pho­to­graph by Leor Michan

On March 1, 2023, we had the hon­or of cel­e­brat­ing the 72nd Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award win­ners at Bohemi­an Nation­al Hall. Over the next few weeks, we will be pub­lish­ing the remarks of the win­ners who spoke at this cel­e­bra­to­ry din­ner. Maayan Eitan is the win­ner of the Hebrew Fic­tion in Trans­la­tion: Jane Weitz­man Award for her book Love.

I start­ed writ­ing Love a decade ago, and it was pub­lished, in Hebrew, almost three years ago to this day. There is some­thing anachro­nis­tic – com­plete­ly mis­placed in time – in speak­ing, tonight, about a book that, at least for me, belongs so much in the past. And yet per­haps it would only be pos­si­ble to speak about a book titled love” anachro­nis­ti­cal­ly. The expe­ri­ence of eros”, we’re told by Anne Car­son, is a study in the ambi­gu­i­ties of time”. The lover’s real desire”, Car­son con­tin­ues, is to elude the cer­tain­ties of physics and float in the ambi­gu­i­ties of a space-time where absent is present and now’ can include then’ with­out ceas­ing to be now’”.

And so I would like to men­tion, tonight, not only the ambi­gu­i­ties of that amorous space-time where absent is present”, but also the always already ambigu­ous meet­ing-place of lan­guages, in my case Hebrew and Eng­lish, and the ambi­gu­i­ties of trans­la­tion. I trans­lat­ed Love on a whim, nev­er imag­in­ing that it would trav­el this far; and I would like to thank the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and the judges for the Jane Weitz­man Award for Hebrew Fic­tion in Trans­la­tion for help­ing it elude some of the cer­tain­ties of lit­er­ary mar­kets and of my own lim­it­ed imag­i­na­tion. Thank you for mak­ing my book present. I hope that I man­aged to make the Eng­lish trans­la­tion some­how include its Hebrew ori­gin, with­out ceas­ing to be English.

I came to New York a few days ago from Tel Aviv, where I have lived for the past eight years. For any­one wish­ing to hold to demo­c­ra­t­ic and human­is­tic val­ues, Israel is a chal­leng­ing place to live in today – per­haps it always had been. I don’t know whether lit­er­a­ture can influ­ence pol­i­tics, or how. Yet I would still like to believe in the intrin­sic pow­er of lit­er­a­ture and writ­ing as such. Thus I’d like to con­clude my remarks tonight with a quote by George Stein­er. “[W]hen the text is the home­land”, Stein­er wrote, even when it is root­ed only in the exact remem­brance and seek­ing of a hand­ful of wan­der­ers, nomads of the word, it can­not be extin­guished. Time is truth’s pass­port”, Stein­er adds, and its native ground. What bet­ter lodg­ing for the Jew?”

Thank you.

Maayan Eitan’s short fic­tion and essays have been pub­lished in The Keny­on Review and World Lit­er­a­ture Today. She holds a master’s degree in com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Ann Arbor, and is cur­rent­ly pur­su­ing a PhD in Hebrew in lit­er­a­ture in Israel. She lives in Tel Aviv