Summaries of Adi Sorek’s Books

Sometimes You Lose People, 2013, Yediot Books Press 

Some Times You Lose People - Hebrew cover

Hebrew cover

The book opens with a novella entitled “Sometimes You Lose People” – about the detached existence of a young woman who longs to find a lost friend and in the process raises questions about closeness and loss. The novella, inspired by Gertrud Stein’s style, is written in an intense and musical syntactic rhythm, contrasts a slightly aloof-amused register with some pain-filled contents. The rest of the book consists of short, sometimes very short stories, creating a thematic patchwork quilt which moves between homelessness and homeliness. Despite the fact that each story stands on its own, many stories are interwoven – as a sequel, as a parallel story, or as a story that completes a certain move started by a previous one.

Chapters from the book

By the Sea [Diptich] – published in the Ilanot review, spring 2012 >>

 The Dance of the Lionfish | Snails | Shadow Boy | Galya Rises | Refugee >>

Internal Tourism, 2006, Yediot Ahronot Press

A collection of stories that includes three dictionary-cycles entitled “Tel Aviv Alphabet”, “Woman Alphabet”, and “Haifa Alphabet”, which sketch an arbitrary – lexical – movement among very short stories. The linked-unlinked stories weave a personal, urban and cultural tapestry whose ends can sometimes be tied together and at others are indistinguishable.

Internal Tourism

Internal Tourism

The three cycles were written in line with Oulipo principles (“Workshop of Potential Literature”, among whose members were Georges Perec, Italo Calvino and others) and follow constraints and rules that have been invented especially in order to write them.[1]

Other stories that form part of the book’s fabric move between the twilight of memory, the artistic experience and the dream, and deal with an intimate jazz performance (“Roses”), a large rabbit looking for help in finding his wife, the hen (“The World as an Animated Film”), a triptych that revolves around the body image of a girl and a woman in three different situations (“Triptych”), and a Kafkaesque-familial nightmare (“American Dream”).

The book, which ends without a period, is an internal journey on trails of consciousness and being, moving between the personal and the public, while all the while keeping an intimate closeness, which is nevertheless also checked by the formal playful-arbitrary restraint that the author has imposed on herself.

[1] Each Hebrew letter is allotted one entry, while the length of the entry depends on the alphabetical location. Thus, for example, the entries under A (Allenby in “Tel Aviv Alphabet”, Ahava in “Woman Alphabet” and Omega in “Haifa Alphabet”) contain up to 10 words in one line. Under B up to 20 words in two lines, and the first line must consist of 10 words. Under C up to 30 words, 3 lines, and the first and second lines must consist of exactly 10 words, and so on until Z.
The principle of counting underlies the entries, whose scope gradually intensifies with each cycle. The cycles can be read without knowing the regularity behind them.

Seven Matrons, 2001, Yediot Ahronot Press
The novel fragmentarily combines the childhood memories of a character named A with a surrealist plot progression in which a young woman wishes to shoot a film in south Tel Aviv, with the aid of a crew of unskilled neighbors and bizarre passers-by, seven matrons looking for a stage.

The novel interweaves two parallel, seemingly unrelated narratives. Each narrative describes the cognitive space of a different character – Eva, or “I”, whose first person narration describes her experience as a young woman trying to make a film in south Tel Aviv, and A, described in the third person as an elusive childhood consciousness that seems to emerge from the depth. “I” is a woman with broad human and intellectual sensibilities, who attempts, in a kind of surrealist and impractical cinematic gesture, to erect the construction of a story, whose actors are a neighbor and unskilled actor called Maxim, Maxim’s sister, Ignatz the dwarf, who has crept in from Agnon’s novel “A Guest for the Night”, and of course the seven matrons – characters who show up on the film set demanding suitable roles.

Slowly the threads begin to come together. A’s story leads to moments of collapse, in which she is hospitalized in the children’s ward at a Haifa hospital, because of an inexplicable inability to walk. Nor does “I”’s film materialize, and her goal changes into creating a visual installation that wraps around the building she lives in and is composed of pieces of situations from her film, as well as of pictures of her thoughts unexpectedly developed and revealed as images. The installation is in fact the completion of a move that enables the “I” to go to a hospital in Haifa, a hospital in which, as it turns out, she had spent some time as a child. Strands of sadness and surprising humor steer the fragmentary novel and pull it towards its ending, the moment in which the grown woman lets go of the shed skins of childhood and adolescent and is able to write her story.

Spaces, 2004, Resling Press.
This novella deals with the building of spaces and with the characters operating in them. The story, which describes a fortnight in the life of the narrator, who makes a living as an artistic house painter, takes place in the Azrieli Center (a complex of skyscrapers in the center of Tel Aviv built on top of a shopping mall) and in villas being built in the periphery. The characters populating it are homeowners, builders, an architect and a house painter. The story is put together as a braid of intertwining narratives, and features transitions between a narrative register and a contemplative register. The narrator witnesses and participates in encounters and clashes between the various characters. In the unfinished shopping mall the narrator is impressed by the thrilling sight of an unfinished building, but also notices the fury of the floorers when an architect and a store-owner unwittingly step on their just laid tiles, the hardship of the numerous builders for whom there are no proper sanitary arrangements, and the architect’s condescending eyes, also turned towards her. In addition, there is a loaded and tense encounter between her and two Arab laborers, who carry a heavy marble column and who she bumps into while staring at the impressive space, causing them difficulty and even injury.

In parallel – the narrator describes various encounters with the female owners of the “mansions” in which she also works. In one of them the narrator witnesses the handing down of used clothes to the embarrassed builders, in another she witnesses the loneliness of a woman who has given up her creativity and is waiting idly for her rich and alienated husband, and in a third she witnesses the charged relationship between an enlightened and pleasant homeowner and her housemaid and gardener.

With unique density and rhythm, the text captures numerous minutiae of Israeli society and its spaces. The novella was published as part of the book “Spaces, Airports, The Mall” which also includes two essays – by Idan Zivoni and Oded Menda-Levy.

About Adi Sorek

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