Monday, December 12, 2011

A Forgotten Hebrew Writer

There is a very good novel in Rachel Eytan’s The Fifth Heaven.  But it is only in those passages where she explores the Maya character.  There we can tell that Eytan is getting at something very essential in herself as a writer.  Unfortunately, she felt the need to introduce a score of characters into this novel, and Maya disappears for long stretches.  Had she been less ambitious, she would have produced a far better novel.

Rachel Eytan , who died young, was an instructor of Hebrew and Yiddish at Hofstra University.  She died  of a stroke one year before I attended that school.   According to The Institute of the Translation of Hebrew Literature, this is her only novel translated into English.  The other, Shida Veshidot,  A Dresser and Dressers, has never been translated.  According to one source, even her work in Israel has been largely neglected, and her books are out of print.  

The Fifth Heaven is well worth readying, as long as the reader is patient to wait for the Maya sections, and the rather stunning ending.  It is well worth the effort.

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