“Hunter of Stars” (short story) by Nava Samel
English Publication History: Zion’s Fiction (Mandel Vilar Press, 2018)
Original: Hebrew (2009, צייד מכוכבים)
Translated by Emanuel Lottem, 2018
Synopsis: One day, earth’s mortals witness a celestial darkening: the stars blot out, the moon dims, and the sun fades. Whatever the reason, an indelible impression has been left on the minds and lives of the same mortals, some of whom attach a religious significance to the event. Neri, however, was born at the same time as the sky’s once-eternal lights dimmed, so he knows nothing of a starry sky, yet fascination runs deep. Though the earth is darkened, hope remains in religious worship of the great God unseen and, as with Neri, in the celestial worship of the great stars unseen. One of his aunt’s chide him on his childish fixation while the rest of his family cater to his obsession.
Analysis: I don’t want to regress this analysis to solipsism, but I could it I wanted. I won’t even regress it to subjective character of experience. In summary, many things happened before I was born: someone invented the wheel, Jesus walked the earth, the black death killed millions, America was founded and fought over, and there were a couple of world wars, to name a few–thousands of years of history that I accept on hearsay as I wasn’t around when those things happened, yet they still affect me in one way or another. I don’t attribute great significance is past events, but it’s 1) my own subjective experience that tell me more about life and 2) the reading of fiction that reflects or expands on that narrative. If I choose to fixate on any one thing, it’s because it reflects my narrative.
In “Hunter of Stars”, the stars have no objective significance in Neri’s life as he has never seen them, but two things compound to give rise to subjective experience: his auspicious birthday and the fact that everyone else signifies another occasion on his own birthday. He can see the importance the stars once held for others, but that significance has morphed into mourning and devotion, like someone’s death where the life of the person was never appreciated until their passing. Meanwhile, Neri sees the stars as a fascination, something to be studied and explored even though he had never before seen the stars. So, which devotion is more significant, the mourning of what was experienced yet lost or the yearning of what was never experienced yet found?
Review: The five-page story is broken into ten small section that sample Neri’s narrative in order to understand why he views the stars with such significance, what others think about it, and how he focuses his devotion. It’s interesting to read the story through the eyes of an adolescent who lives in strange times. Overall, it’s a quick story that usually wouldn’t garner much attention, but like Neri’s wandering eye, once time is taken and the focus shifted, little glimmering gems can be found.