On Mon­day, Galit and Gilad Selik­tar shared the mak­ing of the first sto­ry in Farm 54The Sub­sti­tute Life­guard.” Today, they share the back­ground behind Span­ish Per­fume,” the sec­ond sto­ry in their graph­ic nov­el. They will be blog­ging all week of the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

Galit: In 1982 my father was enlist­ed to the First Lebanon War and my moth­er was left on the farm with four young chil­dren. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the north­ern fron­tier was car­ried out through rare phone calls, mes­sages from those who came home to the vil­lage for a short vaca­tion and cen­sor-approved green mil­i­tary post­cards that my father would send each one of us. When I found some of those post­cards sev­er­al years ago – my mother’s, Gilad’s and mine – I recalled those chaot­ic days on the home front and this trig­gered the writ­ing of Span­ish Per­fume”. I was remind­ed that when my father was away in Lebanon, my moth­er hit our Ger­man shep­herd with the car and then asked me and two of my sib­lings – Sharon & Oren – to take the dead dog out of the base­ment and bury it out­side. Gilad, the youngest, was for­bid­den from going down to the base­ment. I also remem­ber that my moth­er used to pass the stress­ful wartime evenings play­ing cards with men that nobody want­ed at war”.

I am feel­ing quite well despite the fact that I’m abroad”– A post­card from the First Lebanon War, August 16th 1982

Ear­ly sketch­es of the dead Ger­man Shepherd

Gilad: If gen­er­al­ly most of my work with Galit’s texts involved boil­ing down, and if the clichés about one image equal­ing a thou­sand words have much to sus­tain them, then there are also many instances where the oppo­site was the case. Galit’s prose ver­sion of Span­ish Per­fume” began with two brisk lines:

In the morn­ing Mom ran over our Ger­man Shep­herd.
In the evening we cel­e­brat­ed my birthday.”

This may work pow­er­ful­ly in a short sto­ry, but graph­i­cal­ly such tran­si­tions, between day and night and between dif­fer­ent set­tings, seem arti­fi­cial. Even­tu­al­ly I devot­ed five pages to draw­ing only the first line, replac­ing the abrupt­ness of the tran­si­tion in the orig­i­nal with a grad­ual entry into the graph­ic nar­ra­tive. When I first vis­it­ed the base­ment for ref­er­ences after years of avoid­ing it, I was shocked to dis­cov­er how neglect­ed it was. Filled with piles of rust­ed tools and oth­er for­got­ten items, includ­ing the wheel­bar­row in which the dog was car­ried for its noc­tur­nal bur­ial. When I was very young my father used the base­ment as a fir­ing range and I even had the chance to shoot a gun there, a nine mil­lime­ter pis­tol. I remem­ber this base­ment as being very well orga­nized and dry, as opposed to the neglect and water pud­dles char­ac­ter­iz­ing it today. I chose to draw the base­ment as I saw it when work­ing on the book, to cap­ture the atmos­phere I rec­og­nized in Galit’s texts.

The for­bid­den basement”

The wheel­bar­row used for the dog’s burial

Check back on Fri­day for Galit and Gilad Seliktar’s final post for the JBC/MJL Author Blog. Their graph­ic nov­el, Farm 54is now available.