Booking the Jewish trend with Nora Gold

Noble Horvath

What makes a work of literature singularly Jewish? That may be a moot point but, if anyone has a handle on that potentially sticky issue, it is Nora Gold.For the past decade Gold has done her best to promulgate the best of Jewish, and Jewish-related, writing across the globe as […]

What makes a work of literature singularly Jewish? That may be a moot point but, if anyone has a handle on that potentially sticky issue, it is Nora Gold.For the past decade Gold has done her best to promulgate the best of Jewish, and Jewish-related, writing across the globe as the driving spirit, mind and body behind the Jewish Fiction.net web site which, as it proudly declares, is “currently the only English-language journal, either in print or online, devoted exclusively to the publishing of Jewish fiction.” The organization’s About section notes that it aims to “showcase the finest contemporary writing on Jewish themes,” adding that the works can be “either written in, or translated into, English.”That, naturally, leaves the door open for some of this country’s finest novelists and playwrights, including the likes of Israel Prize laureates Aharon Appelfeld and A. B. Yehoshua, as well as Nava Semel, Orly Castel-Bloom and Yoram Kaniuk.Gold is, quite rightly, proud of keeping the platform going for a full decade, with the 10th-anniversary issue due out this week, in time for Rosh Hashanah. These days, especially these days, keeping a cultural vehicle on the road, for any amount of time, seems to be a highly challenging proposition. “There are all sorts of articles and blogs that I saw about how many Jewish publications around the world are folding, and not just because of the coronavirus,” she notes.Gold says she has endeavored to make the works of the aforementioned Israeli men and women of letters, and numerous others, accessible to one and all. “I was always very committed to having this journal free of charge. That was absolutely critical. I wanted it to be available to everybody.”Gold has cast her net as wide and as far as she possibly could, and continues to feed off a broad hinterland of cultural and ethnic baggage in the process. In its 10 years of Internet-based existence, Jewish Fiction.net has put out some 400 stories or novel excerpts, sourced in sixteen languages, including Italian, Polish, Ladino and Yiddish.She has been keen to strike and maintain a balance between the range of nuances and cultural dialects that naturally comes from a global Jewish community colored by the vast spread of core milieu it inhabits, and in which it works and evolves as the generations progress.An acclaimed author herself, Gold knows the publishing business from the inside, and outside. She has three novels out to date, picking up a clutch of awards in the process, with her most recent tome, The Dead Man, which came out in 2016, translated into Hebrew and published by Carmel in 2019, as Ha’ish Hamet. And, although she was born in Montreal and has been residing in Toronto for many years, she made aliyah in the 1970s before returning to Canada due to educational and professional considerations.She has good knowledge of Hebrew and says she can peruse an English version of Israeli literature and immediately tell whether the translator has done a good job. That’s a pretty handy skill to have up your sleeve as the chief editor of an international repository of Jewish fiction.GOLD SAYS she is particularly drawn to works from here which, she says, exude much of the high octane element that is, for better or worse, so inherent to life in Israel. “Part of what makes Israeli fiction so exciting is there is a sense of existential intensity. It is no longer in the sense that the state may be destroyed, but it is living close to the edges of real life.” Therein lies a distinction between works that originate from this part of the world, and non-Israeli Jewish fiction. “It is no slur on Diaspora Jewish literature, but they feel different. I was very excited to discover South American Jewish writing, which I didn’t know anything about. Eastern European material is far more familiar for me.”There are other characteristics of fiction creators from here. “Israeli writers are very rooted in place,” Gold notes, which she feels sets our authors apart from the rest. “There was a story, for example, by an American writer that wasn’t accepted for publication. The place was completely irrelevant and, about three-quarters of the way through, she stuck in the place. So I just took it out. With Israeli writers, the place is never irrelevant.”Gold has been treading an altruistic path since she founded the platform. “We filled a need, there’s no doubt about it. I was doing fine as a writer,” she recalls. But it was not the same for everyone. “I had a friend who was a good writer, who just couldn’t find a publisher. She was very disheartened. I gave it some thought but I was concerned about her.” Technology wasn’t, at that stage, helping either. “There was the advent of online publishing. It was a strange thing at the time,” she chuckles. “Basically it wreaked havoc with the publishing industry. People who were able to get published – I wouldn’t say easily – suddenly couldn’t, because Jewish fiction is seen as a niche.”Some earlier empathetically-oriented training kicked in. “I have a background as a social worker so, if there’s a need, I always think of addressing the need. And I realize we could lose a lot of great writing.” And Jewish Fiction.net came to be.Gold feels reading a good book answers a fundamental exigency. “To my thinking, literature, and fiction in particular, is something that binds us together. It changes you intellectually. There’s a certain kind of magic in fiction, no matter what you’re reading. Once you agree to continue reading [a book] there’s a certain contract between reader and writer. Basically you enter into that world.”That world is, for Gold, largely a Jewish one. She feels, by getting Jewish writing published and made available to a global audience that can help get some insider messages across about Jews in general. “It changes the reader’s whole way of thinking, their whole relationship to the Jewish people, and it broadens them and deepens their understanding about other people.”Gold fully admits to harboring an ulterior motive to her publishing efforts. “I have this whole other agenda. I hope that, on some level, it promotes diversity and pluralism and all those things.”Amen to that. For more information about Jewish Fiction.net: https://www.jewishfiction.net/

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