Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Nature of Dreams

This year I was only in Melbourne long enough to see three films at the Melbourne International Film Festival. I especially loved 'Unmade Beds', an English film made by Patagonian film maker, Alexis Dos Santos for its cheekiness, music and storytelling. And I loved 'Amos Oz, The Nature of Dreams' for its portrayal of Israeli writer Amos Oz (pictured).

Inspired by this second film, I have begun reading Oz's memoir of his childhood in Jerusalem, 'A Tale of Love and Darkness'. I'm about halfway through it now. Usually I'm a quick reader but this book demands to be read slowly and savoured. It's difficult to categorise really. It's autobiography, yes, but it's so much more: it's about the early years of the State of Israel and it's about writing, it's about those particular people and it's about all people, it's about Oz himself and it's about us.

Here, I'll show you what I mean. If this doesn't inspire you, nothing will.

Oz is writing of a particular evening in Jerusalem when he was a boy, of the electric light coming from a neighbour's window, 'pouring out like glue that's so thick it's hard to spill.' And then of how fifty-five years later as he wrote at his garden table in Arad the same thick light spilled from a neighbour's window, the same light breeze stirred.

He goes on to write about the process of writing memoir in a long and wonderful sentence that I will pick up halfway through and reproduce for you (and for me to reread after I have returned the book to the library).

That evening in Jerusalem is like a woman you have known for a long time who
reaches out now and strikes you like a harpoon and starts pulling and tearing you but actually she's not the one who's pulling, she just digs her claws in and you're the one who's pulling and writing, pulling and writing, like a dolphin with the barb of a harpoon caught in his flesh and he pulls as hard as he can, pulls the harpoon and the line attached to it and the harpoon gun that's attached to the line and the hunters' boat that the harpoon gun is fixed to, he pulls and struggles, pulls to escape, pulls and turns over and over in the sea, pulls and dives down into the dark depths, pulls and writes and pulls more; if he pulls one more time with all his desperate strength he may manage to free himself from the thing that is stuck in his flesh, the thing that is biting and digging into you and not letting go, you pull and you pull and it just bites into your flesh, the more you pull the deeper it digs in and you can never inflict a pain in return for this loss that is digging deeper and deeper, wounding you more and more because it is the catcher and you are the prey, it is the hunter and you are the harpooned dolphin, it gives and you have taken, it is that evening in Jerusalem and you are this evening here in Arad, it is your dead parents and you just pull and go on writing.


  1. Oh my goodness. It's a poem. What writing! It reminds me of Plumwood's description of being attacked by the crocodile in Being Prey.

  2. And also of Annie Dillard, I think in 'The Writing Life', telling the story of the woman who ice fishes with her own vein to feed her child.

  3. Thanks for this post :) you are welcome to the creators' site, with more information, clips and pics from this film and more: