Translated by Lee Cornfield
Not infrequently, I run into people who leap up as if trying to grasp at something located in a realm above their heads. Again and again, they leap—but unsuccessfully, it would seem: whatever they are aiming for remains beyond their reach. A few of them leap higher than the rest, hover in the air and thus run the risk that another human being might take their spot on the ground. When that happens, they obviously face a problem: the laws of gravity demand that they return to the earth right away, whereas the rules of civility forbid them from landing on the head of a fellow human. At the moment of truth, they must weigh the odds carefully: if they cede to the laws of gravity and trample the body and dignity of whosoever naïvely took their place, they will be accused of demonstrating antisocial behavior and a general disdain for humanity; if they delay their landing until a more convenient moment, they will completely undermine the laws that enable life on Earth, the laws which, simply put, secure our very existence. They must consider all of this while hanging between heaven and earth. And in the process, they may well regret having abandoned the earth for such a long time.
In those days, we had taken it upon ourselves to rid the city of its drabness. We cleaned up the streets and the avenues, renovated the plazas and gardens, and planted vegetation everywhere. We had a vision, according to which the city and the forest would intertwine until they became a single entity, and that was why we planted densely and liberally, on every available plot of land. We also used numerous species, to create a multi-hued, magical forest. Our dream was that upon exiting our homes we would find ourselves in a thick, shady, and fragrant forest. It was a beautiful dream, and a few years later we awoke to a nightmare. The saplings we had planted had turned into wide-arching trees with far-reaching roots, which then began to proliferate and spread beyond anything we could have imagined. Before long, their roots were invading the land under our homes, creating cracks in the walls, their branches shattering our windowpanes, and no matter how hard we worked to sever roots and saw off branches, they kept springing new ones, and no matter how quickly we filled in the cracks, new and larger ones sprouted. The dense treetops hid the sky so no sunlight could penetrate; the decorative ponds and fountains were sucked dry by the trees, leaving them empty and naked, and the tendrils coiled around the electric poles, uprooting them and wrecking the roads. And as the city became unfit for human residents, large forest animals, including predators, appeared among the trees. We had no choice but to cede. We abandoned the city as it was swallowed up by the immense forest. Now, when we consider these events in hindsight, we don’t blame anyone for the disaster we experienced — with our own hands we destroyed our city; we are entirely responsible for this devastating event. Nevertheless, we have no regrets: we had good intentions and an exciting vision, to which we had been faithfully committed. The only thing we consider ourselves guilty of is taking things too far.
Yoram Naslavsky is the author of two collections of short stories published in Hebrew. His stories have been published in various literary journals in English and Hebrew. He lives in Tel Aviv.
Lee Cornfield is a veteran translator, emerging into the subfield of literary translation. She lives in Haifa, Israel.