Monday, September 1, 2014

Writing As A Way Of Correcting Insults

 I heard a beautiful quote on the radio the other day. One of our major novelists Haim Be'er said that "writing is a way of correcting insults." I am not sure how he meant  it exactly, but I can think of several  options.

The first way is in fiction, where a real-life slight could turn into a triumph. If I were a  fiction writer I would  amend an old grievance which I have carried inside me for fifty years.

 In fourth grade a new boy joined our class. I had never seen a more beautiful boy; he had  big black eyes, long eyelashes and a sad face. He had  just come back from a long stay in the US, and I remember that he had a very special metal lunch box with Batman which we all coveted.

 Wanting to show off, I told that boy that I knew how to play soccer. To be honest, I really thought that I knew how to play the game since I played with my brother. The boy seemed mildly amused and invited me to play with him that afternoon at his house. I remember walking  happily to his house without a  worry. When I arrived he was waiting for me with his older brother and we started to play. What a fiasco! It transpired that I had no idea how to play soccer and his brother laughed at me. I felt insulted and humiliated.

 In fiction I could have changed the facts of this story and showed my friend and his brother my talent, agility and skill in the game. I bet that his brother would have hated to see his little brother defeated by a girl. Sadly it didn’t happen this way in real life.

As a non-fiction writer, this quote inspires me to revisit what has happened without changing the turns of  events or the outcome. Perhaps I could find some compassion in my heart for the little girl that I was. Why did such a minor incident  remain such a  powerful memory?

I am not sure whether it was the scorn my friend's brother who was several years older than us.It wasn’t that I felt bad in front of my friend; he didn’t seem to mind I believe that he was used to winning,  and after this soccer experience  we spent a lovely afternoon playing together in his house.

But in a way I felt betrayed by my own adored brother. In letting me win, my brother had somehow led me to believe that I knew the game. But what makes this insult stick? I believe that  part of it is  that I  experienced, for the first time, a feeling of being  found out to be a fraud.  But I also know that I was so offended because no one stood up for me and I felt alone; where was my brother in this hour of need?

In Hebrew, we don’t have an equivalent to the wonderful expression (and concept ) of “a list of grievances.” Writing fiction is a great way of amending past insults, and analyzing them takes off their edge. Even making  lists is an effective tool, as by grouping grievances we can ridicule their intention and reduce their intensity. 

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