If stones could speak in Palma de Mallorca
Today Anita Goldman’s documentary novel If Stones Could speak in Palma de Mallorca is released and I ask myself is she ever wrote better. No, I don’t think so.
With a clear, simple and straight prose and with a fine balance between the documentary and the literary, Anita Goldman gives new life to the little secret congregation in the midst of Palma. She writes their everyday, their worries, their fears and their terror. She makes their dreams of a free Jewish life, beyond the coercion to belong to the Catholic Church come alive.
This novel, about a terrifying assault hundreds of years ago, is transformed into a both current and eternal tale about fear, prejudices and contempt. Towards the end Anita Goldman writes that history always lives on, that we can never free ourselves from what has been. But that the telling about hatred and violence in the past, might make us just a tiny bit more wise, more tolerant, when we, in our turn, create what will become memories for people in the future, and make us just a bit more thoughtful.
It is easy to agree and to note that Anita Goldman has succeed exactly with this. And that is no small feat.
Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomium. Books filled to the bursting point with Laws(mitzvot) .According to the rabbis there are 613 laws. …. Rules for life and death, for dress and for love. What do you
get if you put them all together? A rigidity, a lawful Jew, a pharsisée.
This is how it has been looked upon by Christian religious and secular critics. Our culture, which since Descartes has cut man into soul and body, have had a difficult time to see the value of the exterior. Isn’t faith first and foremost a thing of the Heart? Do believe in Jesus, Allah or the Lord Sebaot – put please do not bring us all your rules about clothing and food.
But Anita Goldman has found a picture that can help us understand. The laws(mitzot) are not bars
in a cage – they are steps in a dance. Jewish faith is a way to be in the world, to move in the world. Not just idées and feelings, but a unity of passion and practice. Religion as dance. It is a brilliant picture.”
Nothing animates the past as a well written historical ovel. “If Stones could speak in Palma de Mallorca” is exactly this. Goldman depicts the everyday life with psychological insight and a feeling for the concrete and mundane. The reader is invited to live with the Jews of Palma, to feel how life is mutilated when space shrinks.
The prose is poetic and free floating – no self-evident combination, but one that Goldman masters in full. It is also based on solid research, with authentic investigative proceedings hiving an insight into the inner life of the Inquisition.
Anita Goldman’s portrait of men and women in the Jewish quarter of Palma during the Spanish Inquisition’s last palmy days is an act of love with wide ranging importance.
Goldman has, from documented sources, created a number of possible inner worlds. While the pressure against them is augmented, both from willing informers and from the Inquisition, these more or less successful tradesfolk pursue in quiet frenzy their forbidden piety. A finely engraved spatiality portrays this. Moxina, the trader of rags, one of the most moving characters in the book, owns an orchard that functions as a secret synagogue.
But there is also a generosity in Goldman’s tale: She creates a collective novel where many characters intermingle: the merchant, the trader of rags, the young mothers next to the servant girls, the shoemaker and other Christian informers. She is good at depicting the sensuous and the warm, small signs of caretaking and community in the everyday and in the garden where the Jews celebrate their holidays, lacking a proper synagogue.
Some of them, like Moxina, the rag dealer or Valls, the scholar, seem to be taken straight from the old Chassidic world of naïve Godfearing and intoxicated spiritual ecstasy.
Still, the best parts of this novel is when Goldman is less didactic and more of a painter: A woman who takes down a bowl in her kitchen to fill it with flour for the bred she will be baking for the Sabbath. A mother washing her son and embracing him fiercely and tenderly before she puts the prayer shawl over his head. A passionate intercourse between one of the main characters, Cathalina and her husband Morrofés. These are filmic, scenic images and there are many such scenes in Goldman’s novel. Also mass scenes, when the Jews are driven to jail, always spurred on by the lord of power and their jail keepers.
Nerikes Allehanda and other provincial newspapers
Jerusalem & I
Rich, engaging, poignant – the mixture of personal and political, of something very Swedish and something completely different, makes for important reading. – Expressen
It is irresistible. I succumb totally. – Sydsvenska Dagbladet
Goldman persists in turning the perspectives inside and out, it is educational and intellectually stimulating. – Svenska Dagbladet
An elegant essay with the untrammeled beautiful language of Anita Goldman. She is always a pure pleasure to read. – Norrbottens-Kuriren
Even if I have to travel to Los Alamos
Om jag så måste resa till Los Alamos
Recently I was asked: ‘Who is the best literary commentator in Sweden? Mention a woman.’ I don’t know, maybe Anita Goldman? Her new book is a hybrid cast in one piece between personal reflection, novel and reportage. She moves in a masterly way between the point of view of the fiction writer and the journalist. – Sydsvenska Dagbladet
Anita Goldman’s new book is a documentary novel about the people behind the Bomb, the brightest and the best, who in 1943 were secretly quartered in the scenic highlands of New Mexico. Goldman travels herself to this heart of darkness of Western civilization…. When she writes about charming Oppenheimer, his fidgety wife Kitty, the suicide of the mistress Jean, the other brilliant scientists, then Goldman is brilliant. – Tidningen Vi
Anita Godman is, in the best sense, a careless writer. She is not scared of difficult subject matters, really uneasy themes and conflicts that a more lackadaisical writer would avoid because they are incalculable. Or just unpleasant. Like war zones. She writes about tangled subject matters, complicated personalities. Goldman depicts this with authority and credibility. Goldman awakens respect – and the horror that often is sedated in more frictionless fictions than hers. – Prize motivation for Albert Bonnier stipend for a new work of literary importance 2009
When Anita Goldman, sharp and articulate radical feminist, confesses to her longing for mysticism, for God, for the unexpected need to kneel and praise, the text sparks. Anita Goldman has written a both sober and exuberantly happy book about running forth towards mysticism, happily throwing oneself in God’s arms and resting there in devotion. Towards the end she complains that she hasn’t “succeeded” with prayer, meditation or other religious rituals. But can this writing on devotional singers have been my prayer, she asks herself. Absolutely, one wants to answer. Anita Goldman’s vivacious book on God’ mistresses is a testimony to the presence of God’s love in a human soul. Also now, also with a razor-sharp intellectual feminist, schooled in the most critical skepticism of the modern Western project. – Aftonbladet
Goldman artistically treats her theme with a language that is not only impulsive but sharply fixates the moment…. It is a style without walls, floors or roof. The whole scenography is created in the beholding subject’s eyes and is dependent on emotional intelligence. It is voice and gaze more than scrip . Anita Goldman’s “Speechless” depicts the relationship between my children and other’s kids in an era of volatile family structures in a way that is at the same time psychologically insightful and stylistically daring and sensible. – Dagens Nyheter
There are many depictions of the family in contemporary literature, but it was long ago I read someone treating the family complexes with such soft and careful hands as Anita Goldman does in this novel. Goldman carves out a piece of contemporary living with a precision that hardly ever fails. – Kulturnytt, Sveriges Radio
Rita Rubinstein travels on the subway in the best of worlds
Anita Goldman is a mournful writer, but she is also scathing and funny and she has the courage to stay with the pain without sliding into neither pathos nor sentimentality. This collection of stories is simply a pearl, black and shimmering. – Göteborgs-Posten
This is a gripping collection of stories which unerringly and in a clear prose deals with themes concerning what it is to be a human being. – Svenska Dagbladet
The Daughters of Stones
With The Daughters of Stones Anita Godman broadens her authorship, she now apparently belongs to writers, like for example David Grossman and Amos Oz, who touches on the moral meeting points in Israel of today. – Dagens Nyheter
It strikes me how much deeper Anita Goldman’s way of listening to the inner voices of friend and foe is than the often cocksure positions taken by Swedish intellectuals. It is obvious that shared pain is a better basis for a peace process. – Aftonbladet
Anita Goldman has written a powerful and passionate novel, full of the painful contradictions within the history of the Jewish people and it’s contemporary life. – Göteborgs-Posten
On the Danish language publication:
It would be a masterpiece – yes, almost impossible – to take down the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians to an intimately human plane, where real women and men, children and youngsters with their feelings and sufferings, their doubts and dreams, their complexes and hopes meet and explaining in a basic way the drama of high politics in our time, in the land called holy. But it has succeeded well, with highest literary carat, in this moving novel by Anita Goldman”. – Politiken
“It is an as well great warm and strong anger in her words and – when she moves out in the world, to Holland, to the U.S. – even humor and irony. The Daugheters of Stones is not great in size, but it is great in power of its sharply drawn portraits and the deep insights into the ways human beings react. Anita Goldman opens our minds.” – Jyllandsposten
The last woman from Ur
In The last woman from Ur Anita Goldman tells, in a restrained a lightly archaic poetical language where the Biblical and mythical images appear as shiny thematical rays in the text, about Sarah who was taken from Mesopotamian Ur as a wife to Abraham…It is also a story about the humiliation of infertility and childlessness, about women’s exposed position and the violence and clumsiness of men.
It is a small novel with a great power in its simplicity and restraint, with a controlled sensuality in the language, which is more confident and beautiful than the language of many much more established writers”. – Dagens Nyheter,
With a charged and elevated prose, sophisticated in its simplicity, she weaves a tale about female identity which seems very contemporary emotionally….Den sista kvinnan från Ur is about the different faces of power, lost and retained power and the deepest lack of power in life. About the meaning and lack of meaning of women’s lives in the patriarchal desert, where women and men fight each other…It is set far away and in a time long since past, but it seems extremely acute in its depiction of the endless terror of infertility and the short and amazing poetry of motherly love. – Expressen
It is a powerful story, in spite of it being a thin novel. It is drenched with heavy sensuality and knowledge of the Scriptures… Anita Goldman hasn’t economized with the effects, but she deals with the hot material with an admirable stylistic confidence. The perspective is female throughout and ver physical.” Göteborgs-Posten
On Danish language edition:
This is a mythical novel. It is remarkable that Goldman has succeded in combining a deep anthropological knowledge and the terse tone of the Biblical original with a contemporary interpretation…It is in all aspects great reading.” – Information
“The last woman from Ur is a thought-provoking and well written book, which deserves many readers”. – Week-end Avisen