Authors: Mois Benarroch
Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)
Translated by Sally Seward
“Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)”
Written By Mois Benarroch
Copyright © 2016 Mois Benarroch
All rights reserved
Distributed by Babelcube, Inc.
Translated by Sally Seward
Cover Design © 2016 Alan Green
“Babelcube Books” and “Babelcube” are trademarks of Babelcube Inc.
"Agora já sei por que vim. Não foi para escrever meu livro. Vim para ler teu livro. E então Raquel diz algo enteiramente inesperado.”
(“Now I know why I came. It was not to write my book. I came to read your book. And then Raquel says something entirely unexpected.”)
-Pedro Paixao, Quase gosto da vida que tenho (I Almost Like the Life I Have)
THE PAST IS THAT STORY THAT NEVER STOPS CHANGING
ack Kerouac spent his life on the road, while Kafka never left his office: he said that if you don't do anything, the world will open itself up to you in the end. Kerouac went off to find the world on the road and in crazy people. Both died at the age of forty without finding any of the world. And I...
I am forty years old and what I want is to die, what I want is to not continue, what I want is to not decide, not even between Kafka's idea and Kerouac's, between K and K. I don't even want to not decide anything, like Kertész. I want to die. I am alone and the world no longer interests me...
I don't care about what I write or what I don't write, what is left to write or what I will not write if I die today. Nothing. The only person who ever got anywhere with this words business, if we believe in the Kabbalah, was Elohim, or Jehovah, who first wrote the world and then, from his plan of words, created it. But can this world even be considered a great success?
Perhaps what happens to those who approach this possibility, that of creating something with words, those who approach the possibility of being Elohim, is that someone comes and takes them to another world, at age forty. This happened to Kabbalist Yisthak Luriah Haari, to Baal Shem Tov, and to so many others, very many, like Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, Kafka, Kerouac. They died at age forty, or very close to it, at thirty-nine or forty-one. Forty must be a magic number, and I...
It's not that I'm close to creating a world, and it's not that I think I'm as good of a writer or mystic as those mentioned, it's not that. It's just that I've become tired of publishing books, and I can't take another review. If they write something good about a book, I don't believe them. I tell myself it's not important, that the rivalry is not with a contemporary, the competition is with the verses of the psalms, or with three poems by Blake, or a sonnet by Shakespeare, but...
If they write something bad, I can’t write for days or weeks. I climb into bed and no one can get me to move. I write letters opposing the critic, terrible, hateful letters, full of disappointment. I tell him that thanks to him I will not write again.
No, it’s not against the critic, it’s against myself, Myself, that Self that sees me and laughs at me, that Self that does nothing more than tell me I am a failure, that if I cannot create a single page that burns itself at the end of the poem, I am a failure. Every writer knows that, but the only thing to do is avoid thinking about it. In that period, in that space where writers escape their failure, books are created. The best and the worst ones.
But no longer. Not any more. Today I write from a place of failure, from the bottom of my frustration and my unhappiness, from the bottom of my torment and my anger, from the bottom of my dead sea.
Because today, this very day, what I want is to disappear, to not be, and I want it with all my being, from my head to the tips of my toes. What I do not want is to avoid that feeling of sadness and depression, what I do not want is to avoid the pain. I want the pain, I want that pain like I want to breathe. I need that pain the way you need water to live. I need the pain of not wanting to live any longer the way I need my skin to live, that terrible pain of life not having meaning and not being able to have meaning, and it’s better that way, it’s better that it has no meaning. Better. And now I don’t like what I’ve written. I don’t like it anymore because, to put it bluntly, it is not well written and it doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not what I think, it’s not, it’s just part of what I think, and I thought I was a person who said what I thought. Honestly, I am well aware that it is ridiculous, totally ridiculous. You can’t say everything, you can’t tell the truth, not in literature. You can try, but what’s the point in trying something you can’t win at? What I’m trying to say is that I am looking for love, love. That I need a woman who loves me, and I am alone. Not just someone who tells me she loves me, but someone who knows how to love me, and I am alone. But it doesn’t make much sense to complain about being alone in a novel. What reader would stick around to read a book in which the writer complains about being alone, very alone in the world? But who cares about the reader!
I care about the reader. The reader is the one who matters. So I should delete all this and write something more sound, show what I’m worth, show that I am a good writer. I should write a story, tell a tale, tell my tale, say happy things about my childhood, and create a better world, but I don’t want a better world, this one is good enough for me.
I am not against wars. If men want to kill themselves in wars, that’s fine, go right ahead. I think men like wars because they are a legitimate way to die, to leave families and women without being victims. And if they come back, it is a good reason to go crazy and leave their families, or leave the world, even as they remain physically in it. Writers, those darn writers, are quite good at writing anti-war bestsellers. I could write one. But I have never written about wars or about armadas, nor have I written against them. I don’t write about theology either. It bores me.
A lot of things, most things, bore me. I Myself bore myself and talking about what I feel bores me. I could write about the atrocities of the Israelis and the occupation and become an awareness bear. And it’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but I think the people who say those things just want to sell more books in Christian countries. Christians really like the Jews who go against Jews. It makes sense, the first Christian was a Jew who went against the Jews. It’s also something that Jews do very well. It seems too easy to me. A piece of cake.
I wasn’t planning on writing about Jews again, or any other group. Today I am writing to see how far these words can go. If I continue to change my rhythm like this, I could reach that moment Kafka and Kerouac reached when the angel of writers came and took them from the world. If I can be as good of a writer as they were, or as bad as they were, so that they come rescue me, that is the reason I am writing today. I am not in favor of the Jews or against the Christians, nor vice versa.
t was just an exercise; the truth is that I was writing those words between two novels to keep from losing my touch. I wasn’t expecting anything from them or from their truths. It’s simply what a writer does when he doesn’t have anything better to write or to do, or anyone to love. Suddenly words began to appear on my computer. Words that I was clearly not writing. The words appeared every time I left the computer. When I came back I would see a sentence, there was always a sentence.
“Well we can’t give you what you want. But we can give you the possibility to create.”
“Who wrote this, who got into my computer? It could be a virus, but I’m not even connected.”
“Today, and only today, you may create a person.”
“A person, that would be great, but what I want is to write a book.”
“A person that you may choose yourself.”
“Create a person as I like?”
“The only condition is that the person must have been born in the same year you were born and in the same city.”
And at that point, it suddenly stopped responding to my questions. For hours I came and went, but I couldn’t find anything or anyone that would continue this dialogue I didn’t understand.
I come and I go and I keep returning. I reread the words that stuck to my computer a thousand times, but I still haven’t received any more messages.
I understand that I have done something you don’t do in this profession. I have written something I shouldn’t have written, I have deciphered or spelled out some ancient secret of the words. But whatever I do, I understand that I will now have to create a person. Not a fictitious one, a person. What she thinks will now become reality.
She is the woman who I have felt very close to me for a long time now. She is the woman who lives a parallel life, the woman my female characters are always based on. Her name is Esther or Raquel. Those are the only two possible names, the names of my mother and sister, because she is very close. Now I understand why she is always close-by, but I am unable to find her.
And all of that about wanting to die, or about writing not resulting in anything and not going anywhere - it all goes away. I no longer want to die.
I ask that voice, “And why does it have to be the same year I was born?”
I wait, I go drink coffee, I smoke. But I still don’t get an answer.
“It’s a woman, you see what I’m writing, and I would prefer you to tell me something, oh voice of antiquity, incantation of one thousand miracles, Elohim of writing...”
I continue on like that for hours without any answer.
Maybe it has already told me everything and the only thing I have to do is continue imagining my Raquel until she appears in my house. My Raquel is a writer. And she’s going to live in Madrid, she writes in Spanish, and she has never had to leave her mother tongue like I have. She lives a parallel life that I sometimes dream of having lived.
Yes, indeed, she is a writer, a writer I created. She writes books about our city, about her memories, about Jewish characters that today no one believes existed. She writes poems and looks for words in Haketia. Her mother and my mother could be close friends. Her father sells coffee because I love coffee, with its seven hundred components and its mystery of having a different flavor every time you make it.
And suddenly, two days later, another sentence.
“In the year you were born there was a spot for the birth of another Jew.”
So they have us numbered, so many Jews each year, and that year there was one extra. One extra, and now I can complete the mission. I am neither a Kabbalist nor a saint, so why would they have given me this opportunity? Perhaps my loneliness, my pure loneliness, my feeling of exile, and my pain reached that level. One more. Will I be a leap Jew?
“And will I be able to write about all this some day?”
“Yes, but no more than five thousand eight hundred forty-five words.
“And what happens if I go over?”
“Everything will disappear.”
Those were its final words. The sentences never came to perch suddenly upon my computer screen again. So I have a maximum of five thousand eight hundred forty-five words to explain how I created Raquel, and why.
hile I was imagining Raquel’s brown hair and her eyes, large and deep, I realized that it didn’t make sense to keep thinking. I realized that Raquel already existed, that her story already existed in the world, and that I couldn’t change things now. I entered a second in time when it was possible to create a person; perhaps the same happened to Kafka and he created Max Brod to save his books from the fire. Raquel will save my books from the water.
I could no longer do anything. I was afraid, above all afraid. What a mess I’ve gotten myself into now. And I can’t go back. As I was thinking for a second, a lifetime passed by. Raquel’s forty years went by, as did mine. Suddenly I remembered having run into her on several occasions, like with a shadow, at school, age five, in Madrid, on some trip, and I realized why I had stopped traveling to Madrid over the last twenty years. It was because I couldn’t truly see her until now, until this moment in time when I created her. When I created her from my foolish rib, from the rib of a frustrated writer.