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About Ronit Matalon
Ronit Matalon was born in Ganei Tikva, Israel, in 1959 to a family of Egyptian-Jewish descent. She studied literature and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. Matalon has worked as a journalist for Israel TV and for the daily Haaretz, covering Gaza and the West Bank during the First Intifada. She has also worked as a critic and book reviewer for Haaretz. At present, she is senior lecturer in Hebrew and comparative literature at Haifa University and teaches creative writing there as well as at the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem. Matalon is a member of the Forum for Mediterranean Culture at the Van Leer Institute. Two of her novels have been bestsellers in Israel, and her children's story, A Story that Begins with a Snake's Funeral, has been made into a movie.
Matalon has received the Prime Minister's Prize (1994), the prestigious Bernstein Prize (2009), the Neuman Prize (2010), the Prix Alberto-Benveniste (France, 2013) for The Sound of Our Steps and the EMET prize (2016). In 2010, she received an Honorary Doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Gorgeously observed and emotionally powerful, The Sound of Our Steps is an inventive novel of immigration and exile from Ronit Matalon, a major voice in contemporary Israeli fiction
In the beginning there was Lucette, who is the mother to three children—Sammy, a gentle giant, almost blind, but a genius with locks; Corinne, a flighty beauty who cannot keep a job; and "the child," an afterthought, who strives to make sense of her fractured Egyptian-Jewish immigrant family. Lucette's children would like a kinder, warmer home, but what they have is a government-issued concrete box, out in the thorns and sand on the outskirts of Tel Aviv; and their mother, hard-worn and hardscrabble, who cleans homes by night and makes school lunches by day. Lucette quarrels with everybody, speaks only Arabic and French, is scared only of snakes, and is as likely to lock her children out as to take in a stray dog.
The child recounts her years in Lucette's house, where Israel's wars do not intrude and hold no interest. She puzzles at the mysteries of her home, why Maurice, her father, a bitter revolutionary, makes only rare appearances. And why her mother rebuffs the kind rabbi whose home she cleans in his desire to adopt her. Always watching, the child comes to fill the holes with conjecture and story.
In a masterful accumulation of short, dense scenes, by turns sensual, violent, and darkly humorous, The Sound of Our Steps questions the virtue of a family bound only by necessity, and suggests that displacement may not lead to a better life, but perhaps to art.
Une toute jeune fille israélienne découvre l’étrange vie des blancs en Afrique, où on l’a envoyée se mettre au « vert ». À travers un défilé de vieilles photos de famille, elle déchiffre la vie passée des juifs d’Égypte, cosmopolites et polyglottes, façonnés par le colonialisme du Levant, devenus à leur tour colons au Cameroun. Entre chronique et coup de semonce, entre vitriol et nostalgie, Ronit Matalon reconstitue une histoire qui n’a pas fini de distribuer les rôles de maîtres et d’esclaves.
A richly colored narrative of a flamboyant Jewish-Egyptian family and its dispersal across three continents, from Israel's most original new novelist.
Esther, seventeen years old, wild and rebellious, is sent from Israel to Cameroon to stay with her hardheaded Uncle Sicourelle, who is charged with straightening her out. But Esther resists her uncle's plans for her future--which include marriage to a cousin--and in the privileged indolence of postcolonial Africa, she looks to the past instead. Using sepia portraits and scraps of letters, Esther pieces together the history of her family, a once-grand Egyptian-Jewish clan, and its displacement from Cairo in the 1950s to Israel, Africa, and New York.
As the worn photographs yield their secrets, Esther uncovers a rich tale of wives and ex-wives; revolving mistresses and crushing marriages; desperate intrigues and disappointments; poignant contrasts between the living past and the dead present. In sensuous, inventive prose, Matalon penetrates the mysteries of cultural exile and family life to produce a first novel that is mature, authentic, and finely polished.
Set in Tel Aviv and Paris, a powerful story of love, friendship, regret, and war, as current as today's headlines
Ronit Matalon's fiction has been praised as "haunting," "inventive," "refreshingly daring." Now in a graceful, illuminating second novel, she tells a provocative story of two loves, two partings, two worlds, two women: Ofra and Sarah.
When Ofra is called from Tel Aviv to France to attend the funeral of her beloved cousin Michel, she escapes a life lived vicariously through Sarah, her oldest friend, a photographer and political activist. In Paris, Ofra enters the embrace of her French family and the intimate world of domestic life, while Sarah, in Tel Aviv, drifts even farther from her husband, Udi. Drawn to a Palestinian nationalist, she takes on the fight for a girl from Gaza who has been injured by an Israeli bullet and needs medical treatment that can only be had inside Israel. As Sarah adopts the cause with near- destructive zeal and pledges herself to the suffering of others, her own child goes untended, with dreadful consequences for all.
Against a backdrop of national conflict, Bliss confronts the terrible dilemma of choosing between one's desires and one's beliefs, between grand ideological commitment and the more mundane claims of family. With vivid, penetrating prose, Matalon has delivered a large and resonant work that is as artful as it is affecting.
« Nous étions trois dans la baraque : mon grand frère, ma grande soeur et moi, “el bint”, l’enfant, la fille, éternelle troisième personne du singulier. »
Une famille, une maison au milieu du désert israélien. La mère : une femme d’origine égyptienne qui parle un mélange d’arabe et de français et veut tenir sa « baraque » coûte que coûte. « L’enfant », qui n’a pas de prénom. Elle est cet être qui erre dans la baraque, dont la mère n’a peut-être jamais désiré l’existence. La Nonna – la grand-mère – l’aime et la couve comme sa propre fille. Presque trop. Surtout quand la mère part à l’aube pour aller faire le ménage dans de grandes maisons bourgeoises et ne revient que tard le soir. Il y a la soeur, Corinne, grande coquette qui se marie trop tôt et passe son temps perchée sur des talons aiguilles à ébaucher des projets farfelus. Le frère, Sammy, menuisier, qui déteste les beaux vêtements et aime boire des litres de coca. Et le père, Maurice, l’éternel absent, le révolutionnaire idéaliste, qui va et vient dans la famille comme une ombre.
Et « l’enfant » qui voit tout, se souvient et reconstruit pour nous le puzzle familial. Ronit Matalon nous offre avec Le bruit de nos pas un texte d’une sensibilité et d’une poésie inouïes sur une famille immigrée, démantelée. En décortiquant la structure familiale et la place centrale qu’y occupe la mère, elle interroge la fragilité du vivre ensemble, malgré l’amour et les liens du sang.