So: there’s this story of that emperor who wanted a picture of a rooster, and of the master artist he hired to paint it. And of how that master just spent a whole year in the court, rejoicing and dining and taking long walks and whatever it is you do in courts (at least when you’re the emperor’s guest and not part of the help). Eventually the emperor got sick and tired of it all, which is completely understandable, and walked straight up to the artist’s quarters (one might guess the whole court was terrified by his frightful, angry stride), knocked on the door and demanded, “Where’s my rooster, damn it!”
At which the artist just nodded, grabbed a quilt and a piece of paper that lay nearby, and in one fell swoop drew the most wonderful rooster anyone had ever seen (the most wonderful painting of a rooster, at least. For it was a kingdom known for its attractive roosters). And the emperor was understandably surprised, and he said, “What the hell? This only took like three seconds! What were you doing here for a whole year?!”
The artist went over to the inner room’s door, and he opened it, and inside were hundreds and hundreds of paintings of hundreds and hundreds of roosters.
And that’s how I wanted to write this book. Aiming at this one clean stroke. Or rather, aiming at becoming that specific person who could paint that specific rooster. Writing a book that you can love the same way you love a person (as my editor, Oded Wolkstein, said. What he meant was, loving the defects just as much. Loving it like one loves one’s child, especially in these moments when you catch a glimpse of these parts of yourself you’re ashamed of or impatient with, but seen in him or her are both unbearable and endearing).
So I wanted to paint a rooster that’s beautiful and damaged, partial but all there. I wanted to make an object. Complete and distinct, almost spatial in nature, like a physical work of art (and probably just as pretentious).
But I can’t paint worth a damn. So I wrote me a rooster feather by feather, and kept at it until it spread its wings. Naturally, it can’t actually fly. It can’t even lay an egg. All it does is wake you up at odd hours. But that’s literature for you.
Asaf Schurr was born in Jerusalem in 1976 and has a BA in philosophy and theater from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At present he is a translator and writes literary reviews for the Hebrew press. Schurr has received the Bernstein Prize (2007), the Minister of Culture Prize (2007) for Amram, and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Motti (2008).