cover image Moods


Yoel Hoffmann, trans. from the Hebrew by Peter Cole. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2382-9

Passing thoughts and long-held memories intertwine in Hoffmann’s (Bernhard) latest cabinet of curiosities. Hoffmann, one of Israel’s most celebrated avant-garde writers, is a professor of Japanese poetry, Buddhism, and philosophy, and his writing here unfolds as a series of koans, challenging and drawing in the reader: “Beginning is everything and needs to contain, like the seed of a tree, the work as a whole.” Despite this sure-footed start, the book is full of doubts and switchbacks, a self-reflexive meditation on the usefulness of stories in general. The author pulls back from his impressionistic memories of his adolescence in Ramat Gan, a district of Tel Aviv, in the 1950s, to comment on his current depression, which makes functioning difficult, “as feelings are always troubling [his] heart.” Hoffmann’s meandering is intensely personal, yet his hope that the cataloguing of thoughts and feelings will lead to some kind of larger understanding beyond the self is entirely universal. Tracing this path with Hoffmann as a guide will stimulate discriminating readers. (June)