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the Complete Review
the complete review - literature / politics

Writing in the Dark

David Grossman

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To purchase Writing in the Dark

Title: Writing in the Dark
Author: David Grossman
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (Eng. 2008)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: Hebrew
Availability: Writing in the Dark - US
Writing in the Dark - UK
Writing in the Dark - Canada
  • Essays on Literature and Politics
  • Translated by Jessica Cohen
  • These pieces originally written between 1998 and 2007

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine small collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 20/12/2008 Steven Poole
The Independent . 20/11/2009 Boyd Tonkin
Independent on Sunday . 23/11/2008 Michael Glover

  From the Reviews:
  • "This collection of limpid essays and addresses by the Israeli novelist discusses his favourite writers, the degradation of public language under conditions of war, and the possibility of a "literary approach" to reality" - Steven Poole, The Guardian

  • "Although the themes and moods of these exemplary pieces stay inevitably sombre, what uplifts is their unvanquished humanity." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "In this book Grossman analyses his own fictional procedures. (...) This is a powerfully humanistic vision for fiction. It gives back to fiction a mighty role for good, if what Grossman says is true. (...) Grossman's words have a tremendous, forceful eloquence about them, from first to last. They are a delight to read, and all the more so because his English is slightly fractured, slightly odd." - Michael Glover, Independent on Sunday

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Writing in the Dark collects six pieces by David Grossman, including several prominent lectures -- the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture delivered at the PEN World Voices Festival in 2007 and the opening address at the international literature festival berlin 2007. It's a good, small mix with a focus on writing and the writer's perspective but also delving into politics, specifically those of Israeli concern and interest.
       Grossman begins with Books that have Read Me, an appealing introduction to the author's own reading and the influence it has -- which includes the amusing (if not quite novel) observation:

I have frequently been informed by my erudite critics about certain writers who have influenced me, and after reading them for the first time, I have discovered that the critics were correct.
       Grossman focuses on only a few authors and books, leaving this more outline than full-fledged reader-memoir, but those he selects, including Sholem Aleichem and Bruno Schulz, make for interesting examples of how one reader-writer was shaped by his reading experiences. [Annoyed aside: was there no copywriter/editor who wondered/could be bothered to look up who this transliterated 'Erich Kestner' was ? Even in the paperback edition that is how the wonderful Erich Kästner's name is (mis)spelt.]
       One particularly interesting observation: Grossman notes:
I belong to a generation that was accustomed to reading texts in which they did not understand every single word.
       It's something he notes repeatedly -- and occasionally exaggeratedly: "I did not understand a word of what I read" he writes of his first encounter with (a Hebrew translation of) Sholem Aleichem at a very tender age, which surely isn't literally true -- and is something all too rarely focused on in discussions of early or foreign reading.
       Grossman repeatedly returns to his own writing as an example, explaining in part what moves and motivates him; one important motive is to try to confront what he calls 'the Other' -- or, to be more precise, "the wish to strip away what protects me from the Other". Confronting this can be difficult -- he describes how little he was told about the Holocaust and Naziism as a child, for example, and how he also wanted to protect his son from knowledge of it -- but he also conveys how important it is for the writer to make the attempt.
       Grossman also writes (with a bit of writerly idealism ...):
     If there is one thing I would hope that politics, and politicians and statesmen, might learn from literature, it is this mode of dedication to the situation and to the people trapped in it -- after all, they bear significant responsibility for creating the traps, and for the conditions of the trapped.
       While the pieces are fairly simple -- written for popular and (relatively) mass consumption, as lectures and the like -- Writing in the Dark is a good little collection of appealing and thoughtful essays, and a good introduction to the author..

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 September 2010

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Writing in the Dark: Reviews: David Grossman: Other books by David Grossman under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Israeli author David Grossman (דויד גרוסמן‎) was born in 1954.

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