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"The Falls": Black water penetrates deeply Israel today


In the novel "The Falls" by Joyce Carol Oates, a tragic family saga mixes with a serious corruption case • The result proves that Oates stands in the same line as the great American novelists

In 2012, when the novel Fat Belly by A.M.

Homes "Forgive us", among the critics in the USA were those who wondered how it happened that Homes, who until then had written short, illuminated stories and daring but short novels ("This book will save your life"; "The sure things"), suddenly released a broad novel under her hands A canvas in the tradition of “The Great American Novel.” Holmes, for her part, replied that she was sorry, because the message that women were not supposed to write such novels had not reached her in time.

This is probably what also happened to Joyce Carol Oates, one of the great and award-winning American writers, who is surprising in her choice of topics and perspectives, and whose novel "The Falls" proved that she stands in the same line as the great American novelists.

However, "The Falls" was published in 2004 and has only now been translated into Hebrew.

Oates, it seems, did not conquer the Hebrew-speaking audience - or at least the publishers in Israel as did, say, Philip Roth or Sol Blue - and only a few of her dozens of novels, collections of stories and novellas were translated.

This is very unfortunate, because she is a sharp writer who often challenges old conventions and institutions, and her philosophical observation of the world is combined with exceptionally fine writing.

Happily, Elinoar Berger was entrusted with the task of translating "The Falls" into Hebrew, who turned Oates's abundant and complex English into immersive Hebrew.

"The Falls" takes place in upstate New York in the 1950s and is spread over 30 years, in which are compressed the stories of a family laden with secrets and guilt, with a vortex of political corruption and capitalist exploitation in the background, and of course the power of nature through the Niagara Falls that gave the book its name and provide the background symbolic of the ambiguity and danger hovering over the story.

Aria, a 29-year-old young woman, a piano teacher, marries Gilbert Erksin, who plans to become a priest, but immediately after their marriage he leaps into the falls and to his death.

Before she has time to digest the news, she remarries a handsome young lawyer, Dirk Barnaby, gives birth to three children and settles down, surrounded by ghosts that threaten to destroy her soul.

Although her first marriage was born out of a combination of circumstances and no one was really interested in it, Aria waits by the falls, in the mist of the splashing water, as in a real religious ceremony, for her husband's body to be found.

"But there was still comfort: until they find Gilbert Erskine's body in the river and identify it, his death will be theoretical and unofficial. Aria was not yet a widow but a newlywed."

Barnaby is standing by her side there.

A man of fame and status in the community, who almost without words falls in love with her and carries her to a life that should be perfect.

The lawyer is mainly at the disposal of wealthy clients, and according to the spirit of the times, their plight receives much more attention than the plight of those without funds.

But then a young woman enters Barnaby's life. Her three-year-old daughter died of blood cancer, and black sewage flows in the yard of the school where her son studies.

He decides to take on the handling of her lawsuit, and finds himself involved in an affair that undermines his social status and leads to another tragedy.

The "affair" - years of illegal dumping of chemical waste, some of it radioactive, from industrial plants and its burial under the "Love Canal", a neighborhood built for young couples - was blurred in the past by corrupt politicians, but now the smell, the sight and the deadly consequences can no longer be ignored .

And it is Barnaby who takes on the prosecution.

The falls are revealed as a site of emotional, spiritual and ideological turbulence as much as they are a unique and mesmerizing natural site, and the attempt to cause the pollution responsible for the disappearance of the eye and the deaths it entails allows the story to touch on questions of love and lies, hopes and repressions, family and pretense, faith, and of course also the question of the American dream And the price he charges from the dreamers.

Aria, the heroine of the first part of the story, goes by the years and becomes bitter.

After being widowed less than 21 hours after her wedding, she became known in the area as the Widow Bride of the Falls - until she herself is convinced that she is cursed or that it was the strength of her passion that pushed Gilbert to jump.

His suicide haunts her constantly.

Her second marriage, which was too hasty, goes from one crisis to the next and is never stable, and the tragedy that befalls them following the "Love Canal" affair leads her to estrangement and celibacy.

In the second part of the novel, Oates turns the spotlight on the next generation - Aria's three children.

The decision to have three, by the way, was also born in the shadow of the trauma: "When you know that your husband might leave you... you have to have children."

Only when she had three children could Aria say to herself "my family is complete".

the eldest, Chandler Helmand, the introverted scholar who tirelessly investigates the case that changed his father's life;

After him - Royal, the favorite child of his mother who threatens to kneel under the yoke of her excessive love;

And Juliet, who inherits her mother's talent for music, but like her walks the fine line between life and death.

All three of them grow up with a sense of guilt and shame, and when their father dies in an apparent accident they are unable to mourn him.

The death of their mother's first husband also continues to cast a shadow over their lives surrounded by lies, mistrust, greed and murder.

Even if here and there Oates dabbles in clichés (but does not fall into the actual content), she manages to give each of them their own clear voice and surround them with interesting characters - from the town, among the lawyers, neighbors and relatives - who give the story depth and firmly plant it in the American history of that time.

"The Falls" is an exciting journey through vast naturalistic landscape spaces and equally wild soul spaces, and Utes guides her readers in it with a sure hand.

At the end, it offers a kind of redemption, but it has no salve for the wounds and question marks that it scattered in the issues of love and loyalty, and these remain as they were, as befits great literature.

Joyce Carol Oates / The Falls, from English: Elinoar Berger, Poalim Library, 519 pages

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Source: israelhayom

All life articles on 2022-08-13

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