Society & Culture:Relationships
Episode 37 -- Sharon Hart-Green: The Soul of a Writer
Episode 37 of HatRadio! stars Toronto born novelist, professor of Hebrew literature, Sharon Hart-Green.
I didn't know Sharon prior to this interview. We discussed the blank-slate aspect of this schmooze; you know getting to know one another on the run. When doing such interviews, one hopes they’ll like their guest, or at least be interested in them. I was fortunate. I experienced both with Sharon Hart-Green and I had a sense she was okay with me.
From our time together, it became clear that reading copious amount of literature and writing books and short stories has turned Sharon into an exuberant, curious person, with an old soul who served tea to her University of Toronto Hebrew-literature students. (Or perhaps it was the other way around. Maybe she was drawn to literature because of those character traits. Hard to say).
Regardless, the interview tells a lot about my guest. At the 4:00 minute mark she defines writing versus painting and drawing and composing music. About the latter she says they are ‘instinctive’, pure art, whereas writing is indeed instinctual, but “when you’re going through the editing process it is highly intellectual, where the scholarly aspect comes in.” It appears, Sharon sees herself as a person who works both from the heart and the mind.
Sharon continues, a writer never really gets over rejection. “You have to be able to take it…. or you’ll neve be able to continue. You’re going to be rejected 100 times….,” she said. But Sharon has a technique to handle rejection. She has thought through this challenge. Whenever she is rejected, she tries twice or three times as hard. When they tell her no, she pursues yes’s all over the place. Sharon is tenacious.
Later, around 30 minutes we talked about her love of books, especially first edition. Sharon has collected “beautiful” children’s books and poetry books. She says she loves beauty (and will therefore not read Russian literature at this stage of life).
Finally, around the 48:00-minute mark, we talked about Shmuel Yosef Agnon, a Nobel Prize winner for literature? One day while perusing the shelves of a used book store, Sharon came across a book by this brilliant writer. She flipped through the pages. Bought the book. Went home and read voraciously, in awe of Agnon’s ability to weave a plot, to be keenly linear in his short stories. She wondered why at nineteen years old she hadn’t heard of him. Why was she so sheltered in her Jewish upbringing? Why hadn’t she been exposed to this modern Jewish writer of short stories and books, a master of so many obscure texts’, who brilliantly juxtaposed the realities of the secular and the religious, someone who took Judaism seriously? Why hadn’t she known about Agnon’s character’s, Hershel Horowitz, or his short stories including, Agunot and Tehilla? Where had he been? Where had she been?
Once hooked, Sharon read anything she could get her hands on by this lover of Israel, a Zionist - Agnon. Over time, Agnon, unbeknownst to him, directed Sharon. She ended up writing her Ph.D thesis on him, and later on teaching his writings and that of other Jewish literary giants at a university level. Quite a whirlwind of a discovery.
At 55:28 Sharon tells how she was teaching a course at university called, ‘Faith and Doubt in Modern Jewish Poetry’ and included poems from Chava Pinchas Cohen. One day, while in Israel Sharon met Chava at a friend’s house by happenstance and ultimately became Chava’s translator. Sharon ended up translating and compiling one hundred of Chava’s poems, called, ‘Bridging the Divide’. She read, ‘The Veil and The Crown’, one of Chava’s poems, on the show. We discussed the arduous challenge of translating literature and/or poetry from one language to another. Fascinating!
At 1:04:48 my guest and I read a short story she wrote called, ‘The Sign’. We discussed it. I commented on how I enjoyed her slices of life, the nuances in the story, such as the protagonists joy at staring in the window of a fish store and seeing the the silent fish and their perfection in death. Have a listen to our rendition of the story. Doing this reading with Sharon, was enjoyable. I like readings on HatRadio! It adds pizzazz, dimension.
At 1:21:31, Sharon and I, a mother of three boys, discussed ‘Come Back for Me’, the novel she wrote. It took us a while to get there, but once we did our tete-a-tete was compelling. We talked about the Holocaust survivor in the novel, and a young girl in Toronto who lost her uncle, a second father to her, also a Holocaust survivor. Within our discussion, Sharon said she was not sure whether she would be a ‘righteous Jew’ in a time of war – i.e. save a non-Jewish family at the risk of her own life or her family’s life. I asked her, how it is that Holocaust survivors are able to go on, celebrate life, after everything they had experienced. Sharon said, “that question haunted her”. In fact, it compelled her to write the book.
Episode 37 with Sharon Hart-Green was comfortable, insightful and enjoyable. She is a lovely person. We could be friends. She is tenacious, head-strong and refuses to turn away when the agents and literary outlets tell her, ‘not good enough’. Have a listen. Learn about Agnon and Chava Pinchas Cohen. Take in her short story, ‘The Sign’. What do you learn from it? Wonder how it is that Sharon created the characters in her book, 'Come Back for Me'. Where in her mind did they come from? Or was it her heart?
But mostly, discover the soul of this writer, the spirit of this word smith and the wonderment of this lover of books and the word itself. Discover Sharon Hart-Green. Enjoy!
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