ON "DIALOGUE" AND DIALOGUE
Famous Israeli writer Amos Oz wrote in one of his book, that we must avoid forming new cultural ghettoes - instead, we need a continuous, intense dialogue, even one that exhausts the soul. These words may well serve as an epigraph to everything I have written over these past years in media publications and everything I have been and wish to continue to be engaged in as a writer and journalist whose native language is Russian and whose heritage is Jewish.
The dialogue between Russia and Israel is one of cultures, literature, mutual engagement, and understanding. For me, it is not just a relevant topic, but a highly important aspect of my life, the life of my now-deceased parents, and the life of new generations, which are ultimately the future of the Jewish people. It is very important to me that the silver chain of our memory, which stretches from our ancestor's distant past to our yet-unknown tomorrow, not break. Each link in this chain is purposeful: it connects a fractional piece of our collective memory. Each link witnesses and is a part of our history, the collective memory of our people and shared past, because no one stands completely alone.
Maybe this is why despite all troubles and hardships, be they global or local or personal, I dedicated numerous sleepless nights to putting out a Jewish cultural almanac. At first it was CROSSROADS/TSOMET (1994-95), and then DIALOGUE (1996-present). And it is highly important to me that today, here in Russia, one may contribute to the development of Jewish culture, its dissemination, as well as the interaction and mutual enrichment of Russian and Israeli cultures.
In the early nineties, few believed that Russia could have its own legal and open Jewish press, not samizdat or underground. The very thought seemed absurd. But with perestroika came a flicker of national consciousness (or did it awaken from a deep slumber?), something clicked, and we started assembling the first issue of a Jewish cultural almanac. Today, we can see the result: ten volumes of DIALOGUE.
And we are right to be proud. First and foremost, DIALOGUE is a serious, wholesome, conceptual publication in the academic vein. It contains commentary, notes, footnotes, and a glossary. It is a panoramic publication, with prose, anthological selections of poetry, essays and articles (on topics in history, philosophy, and cultural studies), memoirs, and archival materials on various aspects of Jewish culture, such as theater and cinema. DIALOGUE is for an interested, thoughtful, and unhurried reader, who cares about the problems of Jewry and Jewish culture in the context of global culture.
DIALOGUE is what we called our annual Russian-Israeli literary almanac; its first issue came out in 1996. Each issue contains five to seven hundred pages of text by dozens of authors: writers, poets, philosophers, historians, and cultural scientists.
Why DIALOGUE? The almanac's pages bear an intense conversation, which frequently evolves into an argument about the fate of the Jewish people, its culture, art, and connections with other peoples. Participating in this conversation are not just our contemporaries, but also some of the greatest minds of past centuries. Each perceives the same problem from the point of view of his own time, in accordance with his own scientific approach, and in relation to his own life experience. Hence the sharp polemics, pitting against each other the problems of the Jewish people in the past, present and future. But as we understand it, the purpose of dialogue is not to vanquish the interlocutor, but to exchange experiences and overcome misunderstanding.
DIALOGUE is an invitation to a dialogue, which gives rise to a spiritual union, to the degree possible in human society. It requires patience and wisdom. Then even the most bitter enemy may turn into a good neighbor. How frequently it appears impossible! So we stand at the brink of misfortune, precariously balancing ourselves over the abyss. We must try to overcome impossibility, take a step toward it, if only at first just one step. Otherwise, salvation will not come. DIALOGUE was born for and because of this. This is why, I think, it is so important for us and for all that it continue.
One more thing: DIALOGUE is an open window into the world of Israeli, Hebrew-language literature. DIALOGUE is perhaps the first publication in Russia, where issue after issue contains prose, poetry, essays, philosophical and historical pieces, and plays by Israeli, Hebrew-language authors. One of DIALOGUE's primary goals is to introduce Russian readers to Israeli literature. One cannot say "Eyn tarbut Baarets" - "Israel has no culture" - without seeing firsthand original examples of this culture. So I started studying Hebrew, the beautiful and mysterious language of our forefathers. And we started searching for and finding translations from Hebrew; eventually, we started requesting them. We discovered and committed to memory beautiful names of Israeli writers, known to the whole world, as well as young, debuting authors.
The almanac's cover bears the beautiful colors of the sky and desert. It is a publication that was conceived and executed with an original concept, topic, and composition at its core. The almanac frequently contains remarkable, unique pieces. More importantly, it provides longevity and context for these works. DIALOGUE is not just a name: it is also a concept, a dramaturgy. It is a living dialogue of two genetically and historically intertwined cultures: the Jewish culture (including Hebrew-language and Israeli) and the Russian culture (Yiddish- and Russian-language). Russia and Israel, East and West, galuth, diaspora, and aliyah - these are the foundation stones of this complicated, unending dialogue.
DIALOGUE is our duty to those, who are no longer with us: it is a requiem, a kadish, and at the same time a desperate and sincere attempt to retain in our memory the seemingly forever-departed world of our Russian ancestors. It is an attempt to resurrect and retain it in our memory through music, words, paintings, and all other means accessible to art. After all, only memory ensures our immortality.
DIALOGUE is also our duty to future generations. Looking to the future, we also turn back, with hope, to the past, just to make sure that they are there - our distant, unidentified, but kindred ancestors. Looking to the future, we also gaze forward - at Israel, this fascinating and beautiful country, which is to many of us a dream today, but will certainly become our home tomorrow. Conceptually, DIALOGUE is a publication, born not only of our creative imagination, but of the reality of our existence. It is a conversational thread, extended to the future.
The almanac lifts the unknown or slumbering or half-forgotten layers of life, literature, and history - the history of the Jewish people, in the context of world culture, and history of world civilization. It deepens and vindicates free speech, free spirit, and free choice.
Authors from many countries participate in our publication: the USA, Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, etc.
I think that today, in such difficult times, one cannot overestimate the importance of a publication whose goal and purpose is to engage in dialogue. This is true for Russia, Israel, and the whole world. A cultural dialogue, whose deeply engaged participants include leading literary figures, historians, philosophers, and Russian and Israeli authors, may become the consolidating force for peace, which unites all and which may prevent pogroms, international conflicts, and new, destructive wars. I hope that the almanac DIALOGUE is already a step in that direction. It is becoming of both Jew and Greek to contribute to such a literary publication.
Publisher, Editor-in-Chief of DIALOGUE Almanac, Writer
Размышления о «Диалоге» и диалоге >>