... Doron during the German-Israeli-Literature-Days 2012.
AVIVA-Berlin: The German-Israeli-Literature-Days 2012 have the title: "beziehungsweise(n)", which refers literally to "different shades of relationships" as well as "respectively". All the chosen novels in this event deal with familiy and family structures. If you could think of and create the family of your dreams, for you and for everybody else, what would it look like?
Lizzie Doron: First of all I want a family that will have a lot of people because I grew up just with a mother. This is the trauma, this is the missing hole in my life. My dream is, I think, an impossible family because I would like to see at my home, for example, a family that would include a German father, a Jewish mother, I think I would insist having a Jewish mother, and an adopted Chinese child and one black man and someone from, maybe the Muslim brotherhood. We have tension in a family anyhow. We have fights and we have lots of reasons to hate and to love, and I think that I want family to be the microcosmos, not just of your own psychological profile and religion, nationality and ethnic group. I see family as the heartgold of the human story. So I think that no one can achieve this unachievable concept of family, but this is the only option to change something very basic, and the problems of the world that created the war and the hatred.
AVIVA-Berlin: In your novel "Das Schweigen meiner Mutter" (ve jom echad od nipagesch) you, represented by Alisa, is desperately searching for her (your) father. When your daughter asked you about your family after your mother´s death in 1990, you did not know much about it. How did you start your research?
Lizzie Doron: First of all I think the first thing that I did was just to retrieve memories because that was the only thing I had, my only archive. So it was something very personal and intimate. I was sure that it was something no one would read except my daughter´s teachers and my daughter. I had no clue that it is really a story that many many people wanted to share, and I think the moment I realized that my story is not just my story and that people are a part in this way of living without knowing anything about the past of their family, they asked me questions. And they motivated me to continue to search. So, the first thing was asking people that I grew up with, friends, relatives: Was it like that? Do you remember what was the number on my mother´s arm? It was a very naïve search, because the first step was a combination of memories, and I wanted to assure my memories that I really remember things and it´s not just illusions. It´s a kind of a mixture, that´s the "literarische" way, and the documentary part from my point of view, and those opaque memories […]
AVIVA-Berlin: How did you deal with the pain that you probably had, caused by the feeling of knowing so little? Did it provoke feelings of not having a family at all?
Lizzie Doron: This question is very important, feelings and pains besides the other side of writing, which is just a technique to work. Basically, I can write when I am very relaxed and when I am very happy. Because when I am depressed, I can not deal with my past. So, first of all I have to write in good days, in spring days, otherwise it becomes so heavy that I have the feeling I go deep into darkness. And maybe I just, I am very careful not to be deep in the feelings, because I am sure that they will push me away from the text. I was asked a lot – why I don´t use a lot of metaphors, why I don´t use a lot of adverbs and adjectives – and I really write it very straight, maybe I protect myself in this way, not to put a lot of words that develop the deep feelings. I leave the feelings to the reader, because they miss those parts in the text. Someone said to me: "You know, it´s not literature, you just write like somone who gives just information – how come that people are so excited and they are so sad and they have empathy when they read the books?" and I said: "You know, I think that I let them to complete the sentences or the points which I couldn´t write."
AVIVA-Berlin: In your book, "Es war einmal eine Familie" (Hajita po pa´am mischpacha), (2009), the main character Helena returns to the village where she grew up. During the Schiwa she learns about her mother, her life, her hopes, her past and in the end Helena, who always thought that she did not have a family, herself experiences, that she has one – even though her ´found´ family are not blood relatives. Why is having family is so important and necessary for most of us, do you think?
Lizzie Doron: First of all, if you lose something, it becomes very important. I think that this is the main issue. (laughs) You know, it´s amazing. I had a golden ring, which I hated. But I had it as a personal present from my Bat Mizwa, and I was very proud, because I didn´t have a family. Anyhow, it was like all the people in the neighbourhood gathered together, they collected money and they gave it to me. It was not a nice gold ring, it was not special, and it had a ruby stone. One day, I lost it. I came home from high school and I cried. And this became my favourite ring, and I was searching. So at the moment you lose something, you have another attitude to something. I think that I grew up with people that lost their families so I think first of all we are talking about people that need other people and they had to create a kind of glorification, or a kind of, maybe even based on guilt-feeling, because of how they survived and others. […] So this was the desire of all of us, in order to go back to normality, or in order to heal those breaks and wounds, the basic thing was to build a familiy. I was so afraid not to have children, not to have a husband... We were all crazy about the issue about getting married and having children. And maybe it´s really something very normal after the trauma of losing someone. It´s one of the very interesting behaviours of families, that after losing the son, even though the mothers are old they try to have a new child – so it´s the mechanism, that you need a compensation and I think that we, the second generation, especially in Israel, were doomed to be married and to bring children [into the world] and to see that family and books are the most important things in life (laughs).
AVIVA-Berlin: In your work, you focus on life and survival after the Shoah, the silence, the trauma. You were one of very few writers who dealt with that from the view of the second generation. What did you personally learn from your writing process? Did it change your attitude towards your daughter? Are you more open to her than your mother was to you?
Lizzie Doron: I am not sure. Maybe not. I don´t think that it was a kind of recovering. I think that I understood a lot of things about my past, which gives me a kind of peaceful feeling. And, no, it doesn´t even change anything in the past, because as a child I just wanted to be Israeli, and I hated my mother. Now of course, I feel other feelings, I really admired her, but I know that at that moment she would be back we would have the same loaded relationship, because she was a stubborn, a very hard mother, and a very tough mother. So still, I think that as child, at the moment when I withdraw to my emotional life, I still have the same conflict about my relationship with her. Maybe in a cognitive way I can explain many things. I am not sure that we really can be changed emotionally or psychologically. We can overcome more, we can behave well, but I am not sure that basically I´m another person. And I think that my daughter and my son are blaming me in a way they remind me of myself blaming my mother, that I am a very scary mother, that I didn´t let them go far and away. I am the mother of roots and I am not the mother of wings – and now I can force myself, but it is not natural for me to let them go far. Maybe I can talk about that openly, or I can understand it deeply, but I don´t think that I am a better mother... I don´t know, I don´t know. I am not sure. One thing is amazing: because I didn´t have a father, because I don´t have any images of relationship of couple hood, I think that I am so careful, I put so much energy in couple hood. My husband and I are much more than a couple, But with my kids, it was much more loaded, here in my back. In my brain was my mother with her behaviour, so whenever I had to say something to my kids, I heard another voice. So, we were three in this relationship. And with my husband it´s just me and him.
AVIVA-Berlin: The main issue in your novel is loss and how the different characters deal with it – or not. Loss has always been pertinent in Jewish lives, even today. How do you personally feel about the possible attack by Israel on Iran or vice versa?
Lizzie Doron: I think Israel is not a normal place, it´s a place that dealt just with the trauma and not with normality. So that´s my conflict on my relationship with Israel. I think that we need our security and everything, but psychologically we have to try to see the option of the life, not just to deal with our nightmares. I have a problem now to be in Israel, I don´t have another place and another language, or another country, but I feel I want to escape, because, this is a very sick hospital. We don´t have very good psychiatrists, we are not treated well in this hospital, but we have very good people in this hospital – creative people, intelligent people, funny people, but the psychiatrists that manage and rule this hospital are not professional now, and that´s the problem, if you take it as a methaphor.
Now Israel is a state and we have to deal how to live with the neighbours, who are we, what are the relation between religion and nationality, so we have to discuss many, many, new things, but we are stuck in the "zionist concept", because we fell in love with that and we really have the permanent conflict in Jewish life – where is the religion, where is God and where is the liberal and open democracy. So, the real point now, that Israel is a state is to search for a new identity.
AVIVA-Berlin: Are you planning another book? Could you give us a hint as to what you are you working on at the moment?
Lizzie Doron: Oh, I have two. In one I want to tell the story and the relationship with the Germans. So, as a writer I will give a kind of an interesting picture of travelling in Germany. This will be the book that will complete the story of this, I think, of a journey from childhood to what happened because of this childhood. But I have something else which was a kind of a mission: I said to myself ´Oh, you are so crazy, you are talking about yourself, about your family – shouldn´t you see the others?´ And then I decided to tell the story of a Palestinian family. […] I came to live with a Palestinian family and I found, I think, that I had a problem, a very hard feeling towards the women status and women´s position in Arab society. It was for me that his wife, who graduated university, and he´s a professor – she cannot sit with us for lunch! And you/he can not talk with me in the Ramadan, because you/he don´t talk with women. And I am older, I could be his mother. It was so shocking. I say that a society that humiliates, humiliate isn´t the word, that puts away women, will never achieve peace, because if you are not equal in your society, you cannot build a relationship with others.
AVIVA-Berlin: Lizzie Doron, thank you for this interview!
Lizzie Doron, geboren 1953 in Tel Aviv, lebte in einem Kibbuz auf den Golanhöhen, bevor sie Linguistik studierte und lehrte.
2003 wurde ihr Roman "Ruhige Zeiten" (2005) mit dem von Yad Vashem vergebenen Buchman-Preis ausgezeichnet. 2007 erhielt sie für "Das Schweigen meiner Mutter" ("ve jom echad od nipagesch") den Jeanette Schocken Preis - Bremerhavener Bürgerpreis für Literatur. Es folgten die Romane "Der Anfang von etwas Schönem" (2007) und "Es war einmal eine Familie" (Hajita po pa´am mischpacha), (2009)
"Warum bis Du nicht vor dem Krieg gekommen?", das erste Buch von Lizzie Doron, erschien 2004 im Jüdischen Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag. Es ist eine Hommage an ihre Mutter und zählt in Israel inzwischen zur Schullektüre.
"Das Schweigen meiner Mutter" (2011) ist Dorons bisher persönlichstes Buch das die schmerzhafte Spurensuche einer Frau nach ihrem Vater schildert. In all ihren Romanen beschreibt die Autorin ebenso subtil wie direkt von der ersten Generation in Israel Geborener nach dem Holocaust. Lizzie Doron lebt in Tel Aviv.
Copyright Fotos: Sharon Adler