Literary editor and translator Valerie Arnon née Rosovsky, was born and grew up in Salford, England and is a graduate of Manchester University. In 1955 she and her husband Amatsya Arnon – Englesberg, both active members of Habonim youth movement, immigrated to Israel and joined kibbutz Bet Haemek. At the end of 1959 she and the family left the kibbutz and settled in a seaside neighborhood of new immigrants in Herzliya. Valerie Arnon's English translations of contemporary Israeli drama include among other works Nissim Aloni's The Bride and the Butterfly Hunter and Eddy King and Dan Almagor's musical theater piece Ish Hassid Haya("Only Fools are Sad"). Her interest in and study of drama led her to develop a contemporary treatment, in Hebrew, of Euripedes Electra.
The thesis of Euripedes' tragedy Electra is: Killing out of vengeance for a murder in the family is not necessarily a noble act. Blood vengeance can end in the ruination of those whose hands are thus stained.
The story of Euripedes' play is the same episode as that dramatized by Aeschylus, Sophocles and others in which the mother, Queen Clytemnestra, is killed by her children in an act of revenge for the death of their father. But in contrast to Sophocles' approach, for instance, which emphasizes the noble conscience of his royal heroes, Euripedes deals with ordinary people and their human foibles. His approach to the play's protagonists is not one of reverence and adulation but rather the opposite: instead of making them larger than life he dwarfs them in relation to the disasters they bring about. Yet despite its heroes' diminution, the drama still works. In fact it becomes even more moving and gut-churning. For we, the viewers, know our own weaknesses from within, while the tribulations experienced by those in high places may be harder for us to identify with.
Arnon is the author of documentary books Shkhenim – Te-uda (Neighbors -- a Document) and Hana'ara miVarklyan (The Girl from Varklyan), 2000-2001, published by Ir Utchelet (Carmela Lachish). These two biographical documentaries in which the author's neighbors, mostly immigrants during the Ingathering of Exiles and survivors of WW2, tell their stories, were published in a single volume in English in 2004 by Verba, Jerusalem in the book Across the Street and Far Away.
Across the Street and Far Away
Verba Publishing, 375 pages
Yuri Weiss, Jerusalem 2004
“I embarked on the pursuit of harvesting my neighbors’
memories without knowing what, if anything, would come out of it. And here it is: an account of the long, straggly, painful trek of escapees, survivors, refugees, who wandered from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Hungary, France, Latvia, Libya, to make their home in our small neighborhood by the sea. The stories collected do not twine into a dramatic theme, and yet there is a thread: myself, living as I do in close walking distance of such legends”. V. Arnon.
(from the back cover of Across the Street and Far Away)
From the memoire "The Girl from Varklyan" In the book Across the Street and Far Away
Big City 1942
My cousin Hana Bluma and I presented ourselves at the Gorodishe (Big City) school on a cold afternoon in late December. The headmaster, a war veteran with a hand missing, brought us to a house and knocked at the door. It was opened by a skinny old woman. “Babushka, could you take our new teacher, Anna Ossipovna, as a lodger?” he asked, adding “She’s with her sister...” “All right, I don’t mind a lodger,” says she, “as long as it's not a Zhidovka (Jewess).” My cousin and I exchanged glances. “My sister and I are Latvian,” I said confidently. “Suits me,” the old woman shrugged – clearly the first time she'd ever heard of a Latvian.
In its own way Across the Street is a history book, one concerned not with the grand actions of nations or the deeds of great men, but with the small-scale heroism required of ordinary people slammed about by momentous events.. . Arnon lets her subjects do the talking, the stories are told as monologues, with only short, personal comments at the end of each chapter and a preface by the author. But her talents as an interviewer are apparent throughout the book
Side by side with her professional work as a technical editor and translator, Arnon has engaged in and studied fiction-writing and scriptwriting.
STILL LIFE is a collection of stories, some of which have appeared previously in Hebrew. Included in the collection, in homage to the deservedly popular early 20th century Yiddish writer Israel Joshua Singer, is V. Arnon's translation of his autobiographical episode Bachmatch Station. The episode takes place during what is known as the "May 1920 Kiev Operation" -- a spearhead operation in an attempt by Poland's new leader, Yosef Pilsudski, in collaboration with Ukrainian nationalist forces, to wrest central and western Ukraine from Soviet control. Through the eyes of one of the thousands fleeing Kiev at the time Singer relates in his very own way the experiences of a lone Jew, a wandering Jew travelling to the unknown.
"RITES OF PASSAGE AND PERSISTENCE"
In these doleful times, when dystopia has become a favorite theme of films and novels and every newscast seems to bring another reason to despair, it was refreshing to read Still Life, Valerie Arnon's new book of short fiction... [read full review]
From Still Life: "The Last Time"
They're over there talking quietly. Little big-chest Ruthie, Annette the cook, Malak the nurse. And she is here too, so I’m safe. One summer long ago in another place I watched her through the open tent flap as she passed by, dragging a tree. Sylvia. See those strong brown legs, I said to my friend sitting with me, that’s a tree-lioness! Sylvia-Leviya. With her I could make a tree. But when part of the tree is gone, what happens to the rest? She will be left behind…
They're talking - about this and that. Sylvia is quiet, doesn't have much to say. She asks about the breathing. Why is it so heavy? Short breaths, chest going up going down, up and down. It's so hard for him to breathe – she's worried. That's how it seems, dear, says the little big one, but he doesn't know about it, his eyes are open but he doesn't see. Doesn't feel and doesn't see. Little-big Ruthie is head nurse here so she should know. Sylvia comes closer: Hi darling, she says. [Read the whole story]