Yoel Hoffmann's novel The Christ of Fish, revolving around its heroine Aunt Magda, offers a heart-stopping view into the soul of things. Hoffmann makes a beautiful, epiphanic mosaic out of 233 pieces of Aunt Magda's life in Tel Aviv. Originally from Vienna, still speaking German after decades in Israel, and a widow, Aunt Magda has "divided her life into two periods: 'When my husband was alive' and 'now.'" "Now," ever elusive and ever inclusive in Hoffmann's work, contains her childhood, her marriage, her nephew, her best friend Frau Stier, Wildegans' poetry, apple strudel, two stolen handbags, Bing Crosby, a favorite café, and a gentleman admirer. Spontaneous and dreamlike, Hoffmann's images of reality shift in currents of "realness,"creating moments of absolute clarity—life, seized as it is and of itself—from the "cotton reels of memory." One reel concerns the title fish: "At the beginning of the fifties (Food was scarce in those days. Once a month, in exchange for government stamps, we ate a yellow chicken.) on Passover Eve, Aunt Magda's friend Berthe came to visit her and brought her from the Jordan Valley a large carp in a metal bucket....Aunt Magda filled the bath with water and put the carp in it. Two whole days the carp swam up and down the length of the bath. On the third day, Aunt Magda declared that the carp 'thinks just like we do,' and sent Uncle Herbert (an expert in Sanskrit) 'to put the fish back in the sea.'"
“These exquisite shards of memories, crystallized in language: an attempt to find out 'how (by virtue of what principle) the universe keeps going.'”
— Review of Contemporary Fiction
Yoel Hoffman is a contemporary Jewish author and translator who teaches at the University of Haifa in Israel.more »
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