“A Good Place for the Night” (novelette) by Savyon Liebrecht
English Publication History: A Good Place for the Night (Karen and Michael Braziller Books, 2006), Zion’s Fiction (Mandel Vilar Press, 2018)
Original: Hebrew (2002, מקום טוב ללילה. אנגלית)
Translated by Sondra Silverston, 2006
Synopsis: Isolated amid chaos the train car, a woman named Gila emerged from the dark a lonesome soul along with another man equally bent on confusion and sobriety. Their location has no name, just as their time has no momentum; only faces have names, and these trickle into their ramshackle encampment with stories of death and decay from nearby villages. Memories of their own lives lost to the destruction weights heavily, but current struggles surmount the burden of the past: food, weather, insanity, and progeny. The initial man and woman who found themselves safe in the train have since formed an emotional bond, but the latter of four struggles continues to abrade their peace of mind because she’s as barren as the earth post-catastrophe. With long-term need for descendants to continue their bloodline and all of humanity, they cast their eyes to the others around them. What relative peace had been held over this community will be rent asunder for the greater needs of humankind sans humanity.
Analysis: In the Old Testament,the Pillar of Fire led the Israelites during the Exodus from Egyp. It was not only a manifestation of God as a beacon of light, but it also acts as a source of inspiration, fear and love. In “A Good Place for the Night”, however, a pillar of wind if the recurring element which serves contrarily to the Pillar of Fire: where the latter offers a way forward to safety, the former abducts to elsewhere. This pillar of wind seems to stalk Gila’s home, herself with memories of Holocaust Memorial Day. Though it has yet to capture her, it has the tendency to pick up the lone boy in its vortex. It can be interpreted that the pillar isn’t a natural one, but a supernatural one that is selective in its kidnapping. Is the supernatural capture one of condemnation from humanity unto death, or is the ensnaring one of rapture?
Review: What little there is in dialogue is fenced in by lengthy descriptive paragraphs that ricochet between current routine daydreaming and current actions. At 29 pages, traction is hard to find given the structure of the story: starts in the future, meanders between the past and present, before ending at the culmination of events that leads to the beginning of the story. Half-way through, I had to restart the story only to experience the same lack of traction. It’s not a story to breeze through, but the final sequence of events is lucid and offer contextual frame for the rest of the story.