Dozens of foreigners were walking around them, making a movie. Grossman, who came to the set, felt at that moment like the loneliest man in the world. Something he considered so intimate was exposed for the entire world to see; his soul belonged to everyone. He was almost happy.
“It was rather confusing having everyone see what was going on in my mind,” he says. “Because how can it be that suddenly there’s a staff working on something that a person wrote and invented sitting in his room? It’s so public. And as soon as it’s public, it has the power of a very strong reality. They exist".
This isn’t the first time that a Grossman novel has been turned into a movie, but it is the first time he’s enjoyed it so much. After only one meeting with director Oded Davidoff and scriptwriter Noah Stollman Grossman gave them the OK to use the book, with the usual stipulations and limitations, and with a request that they leave Grossman alone and do what they want with the story.
The same instructions were given to director Nir Bergman, who has been working for two years on The Book of Internal Grammar, and to the European group that has been dealing with The Zig-Zag Kid.
Isn’t it very difficult to allow your story to become someone else’s story?
“There’s one scene in the movie, when Tamar goes into Pesach’s hostel for the first time and he auditions her, with a toothpick in his mouth that he moves from side to side, and suddenly he tells her something like ‘I’ll tell you what to do now, pack your bags and get out of here and go back to your parents.’ And it isn’t in the book. As soon as I read that sentence in the script I knew that that was it, I’m going with these people. They took the situation I wrote about and made it richer. They improved on my book.”
The Yellow Wind
Grossman is no longer a child. Not because he is 52 years old, and not because even his children are no longer kids. The man who succeeded in defining childhood again and again in his books, its charm, its pains, and mostly the loneliness, in which the soul grows, has distanced himself from childhood.
He knows that the world children face today is completely different from the world in which he and the generation he was addressing grew up, he finds it hard to deal with the cultural situation, and politically he’s never fit in here. The lonely child who wanted so much to be accepted is today standing off to the side, of his own volition.
“I think that I’m very connected, but I don’t necessarily like what I’m connected to. After so many years I think that I know, that I feel the codes of Israelis and of Israeliness, but many times I feel like a complete outsider. And by the way, that’s OK. It isn’t a terrible place to be in.”
The TV he watches is mostly news and soccer. He is put off by entertainment programs, he doesn’t surf the Internet, and he doesn’t use e-mail. The world of celebrities turns him off, and doesn’t wish to be a part of it, even from afar.
Do you know who Ninet is?
“Of course, what do you take me for?...The problem begins when popular culture pretends to be culture. When books are published that haven’t undergone enough filtering, when there is movie inflation, and when news becomes entertainment.
"In my opinion Channel 2 is the big offender on that issue. It programs its viewers for very short bits of thinking…. They’re careful not to overburden the viewer emotionally, and they immediately break it down into some sort of foolishness. This is molding the way an entire generation expresses itself and thinks.
“I have a problem with the fact that the language is no longer a language of nuances. On Army Radio a sub-language has developed that uses only the present tense. Everything takes place in the present only. The interviewer says to you something like, ‘and so, when it’s clear to you that he wants to rape you, you say what to him?’ and the poor interviewee doesn’t understand because she lives in normal time, not in Army Radio time. She doesn’t really want to return there.
"You could give a deep interpretation of what this means, our dubious connection with our past and our future, our adherence to the present, but I think that it is mainly a mannerism that recycles itself and makes reality superficial. What happened a second ago is passé after all, we must drag her rape to the microphone, everything has to happen now.”
See Under: Disappointment
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Yellow Wind, one of the founding documents of the Israeli-Palestinian conflct, in which Grossman forsaw with terrifying accuracy the intifada that broke out several weeks after the book’s publication. Grossman is one of the most politically-involved Israeli authors, and he has only become more pessimistic over the years.
The political vicissitudes of the elections have left him fairly apathetic. He dismisses Kadima as “a symptom of the fact that Israeli society is very eager to make a deal between the moderate left, the moderate right, and the center. The compromises that those three want to make or are capable of making have no connection to reality.”
Olmert, in his opinion, is a Sharon clone: “Less a military man than a belligerent, aggressive man. His skills are more in the civilian, even lawyerly realm, and if there are negotiations we will need them, but you shouldn't dismiss his aggressive urges. It worries me."
He is tired of Labor, and while he’s been a Meretz voter for some time, he isn’t happy with what’s happening to the party. Nevertheless, he’s had a hard time finding a leftist Zionist replacement that cares about social issues. What really burns him up is what he sees as Israeli belligerence and the ability of most Israelis to live with it as if everything were OK. “Only Israelis are capable of thinking that in recent times things were less aggressive,” says Grossman, almost getting angry at the question.
“If you were a Palestinian you’d feel the occupation, the pressure, the arrests and the foiling of terrorist attacks in every cell of your body. We’ve improved our self-deception, which is fed by the fact that we don’t want to know, and certainly not if we are acting in ways that contradict what we want to think about ourselves, and we live with a consensus that is nice and cozy like an old slipper.”
But we disengaged from Gaza.
“The disengagement was good only in the sense that it reduced parts of the occupation. It was an error because it was unilateral. I never understood how Sharon could have given up so hastily on the possibility of making a practical gain from it, and I think that this is a result of a deep contempt for the Arabs and the Palestinians, a deep sense that you can’t make a deal with them or have a dialogue. I thought of suggesting that the name for the next step should be “snuggling” which is even nicer. We’ll be within ourselves, and it’ll be nice and warm in there.”
Are you able to identify a “we” at all?
“With great difficulty. This ‘we’ is really divided and torn, as it is in every society that lives with violence. It seeps into your most interior parts, and then you view a fellow Israeli as an existential enemy if his opnions are different from your own. I believe that this is the main reason today to make peace, because this is our only chance to heal. From that point of view, even if peace comes fast it will be too late. We’ve developed this ability of hatred and internal alienation.”