Yoel Hoffmann Curriculum Vitae (selection)
translated from the Hebrew by Peter Cole

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[…] I raised a wild dove. The dove got out of the crate I’d placed on the kitchen porch and came back to it. First it flew over the Urbachs’ roof (their son, Micha, later became a psychologist) and afterward stood near the opposite porch where, with a teaspoon, the widow Leikechmann fed her son Avremaleh (when he was seven Avremaleh drowned): This is for Aunt Blanca…. This is for Uncle Moshe…. This is for Mrs. Hoffmann….

There are things beyond belief, such as—that the German word for “feelings of inferiority” is Minderwertigkeitsgefühle. The earth comes from a dream and returns to that dream like my Uncle Ladislaus, who was made an honorary citizen of Ramat Gan. There was only a single asphalt road in the Ramat Gan of nineteen thirty seven, and he rode a donkey he’d received from the General Union of Hebrew Workers in the Land of Israel to his patients’ homes. Also amazing, for instance, is that in Russian (or Polish) the word for God is Bóg.

Aharon Weiss, who taught Bible at the Givatayim elementary school, died twice. Once a rumor pronounced him dead and the second time it was nature. Most likely Bóg is responsible for both. He’s also responsible for the chronic infection in Aharon Weiss’s ear.
              His Marxist orientation, on the other hand, Weiss arrived at against Bóg’s better judgment (as Weiss saw it, the prophets were the proletariat’s leaders), and whoever made trouble got listed in a black book.
              Shimon Spector already had, most likely, some one hundred infractions against him noted in this black book, which Aharon Weiss forgot one day on the table during recess. Anyone who has seen the oil painting of the horde charging the Bastille (Delacroix?) would note, for certain, the resemblance between that picture and the eighth grade class as a whole, with Shimon Spector at its head (like the bare-breasted woman in that famous painting), tearing out the pages of the book one by one and tossing them into the air, that fall, like autumn leaves, from the edge of the cliff at “the crater” (which is to say, the soccer stadium), toward the Ramat Gan team’s goal.

Apropos the wild dove. Two years ago, in Cordoba, Spain I saw a sign:
                            Psicólogos clínicos
                            centro de análisis y
                            modificación de conducta

A man stepped out of a side door and said : Qué perdistes ahí? Qué perdistes ahí? (What are you looking for here?)—the tongue in his mouth smacking against the back of his teeth.

What could I have added? Was the sign for sale? Appetites are appetites, and we’re all clinging with all our might to the thin crust around the earth.
              Today, too, here and there I see such signs. Sometimes a gloomy person comes out of an opening in a building like that and he most likely is looking (like Romulus and Remus who founded Rome) for a she-wolf. Some of them change their old names for a new one just like Micha Urbach, the fat boy over whose roof the dove flew.

Now it’s February two thousand and six and rain is coming down. Three-thirty in the morning. Dream matter’s still in the air. An ancient Chinese woman. Hair for fertilizing lilies. The rest has been forgotten.
              A man whose name is Van Hessen is responsible for respiration. Two girls attend to the joints and the ears. Someone (maybe a professor whose body tilts to the side) arranges the events of the past inside an enormous storeroom.
              Who is driving time? Mr. Zaka’im?

An infinite number of books go out into the world (they’re written by a woman in Tel Aviv), and in most the wife gets used to her husband in the end.
              God’s duty is to show compassion for all of this, for he is all-powerful.

In 1956, the knife belonging to the captain of frigate K 32 slipped against the steak on the plate (the festive meal took place in Palermo, Sicily, after the local authorities finally caved in and supplied the Jewish ship with fuel) and garden peas were sprayed onto the Italian officers’ white uniforms.
              When the Sicilian launderers hung the uniforms out to dry, the SS Miznak (the K 32) was already on her way to Sardinia, and from there to the west coast of Africa, where a school of dolphins escorted her into the port of Dakar. But the captain (whom we called Pincer-tooth) dreamed each night, until we reached the Cape of Good Hope, about the moment when the peas were sprayed. A thousand times he cut (in his dream) into the steak without any problem or at least said, with the proper accent, “Scusi.”
              That moment is called (in the history of the world) “the moment when the peas flew off the plate.”

Romanian-born Yoel Hoffmann’s works of fiction include Katschen & The Book of Joseph, Bernhard, The Christ of Fish, The Heart Is Katmandu, and The Shunra and the Schmetterling—all of which are published in English by New Directions. Curriculum Vitae, from which these excerpts are drawn, is forthcoming with New Directions as well. Hoffmann, who taught Eastern philosophy at the University of Haifa for many years, is widely regarded as Israel’s leading writer of avant-garde fiction.

English translation © Peter Cole
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