Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Your Excellencies , ladies and gentleman,
We live in a world at war. Whether we experience real conflict around us or have unknowingly internalized war and are in conflict with fellow humans, with society, with ourselves or with life itself, we live in a permanent state of conflict. Duality is the deepest human experience. For everything has its counterpart in the world we know. How can we choose an enlightened path that benefits our collective existence and contributes to a more peaceful world?
We all have a part to play in the world, both in our immediate surroundings and in society at large, which is ultimately humanity itself. That is where the role of the writer comes into play. David Grossman was born into a heritage of prosecution, into a land torn by division, conflict and a search for identity. And he has put his writing at the service of the good of the world. By understanding the Other, even though there is no other, only another version of ourselves.
Anyone who has had the fortune of meeting David Grossman in person, as I was last summer in Italy, immediately understands that you cannot separate Grossman the writer from his art and mastery of literature.
There is an immense yet gentle force that draws you closer. The depth of sense of humanity you experience in his presence is deeply soothing. For that is the moment you realize that you had been living in a world at war, but suddenly that world disappears and is replaced by openness, kindness, curiosity, and a yearning to understand the other. A field of endless possibilities, a field of just being human. Making mistakes. Being lost and found again. A field of comfort, understanding, redemption even. Above all else, there is one thing outweighing everything: an urgent desire to understand human experience.
Although I am speaking of David Grossman, this prelude is not personal. For the eye of the writer, witnessing humanity in all its forms, is not personal.
With David Grossman’s work we come to understand the deepest meaning of the Jewish term ‘Tikkun ha olam’. The act of repairing the earthly world we live in. To make the world more just, peaceful, tolerant and equal through kindness and political action. Repairing the world also means undoing the world as we know it. To go beyond the familiar notions and concepts. Beyond right or wrong. Beyond accusation, victimhood and blame. To understand the true meaning and experience of being human and finding the truth of the moment in order to reflect it back into the universe. Our collective field of understanding. Every reader of Grossman’s work is a part of that act. Which means hundreds of thousands of readers experiencing an understanding of the unspeakable, being touched by it, weeping about it, intimately getting to know the human struggle, being led by this great writer to perform an act of kindness to the world. To us all.
To be able to perform tikkun ha olam one must be very clear, unsentimental, and have a love of truth. The truth of a situation, of a person, of life itself. But it also needs a gentle and sensitive heart. One that is not afraid to face darkness and light. That is brave enough to view and acknowledge all that we are as humans. Only then you can see what needs to be done to balance and restore order, and to make the world a little bit more whole than it was before.
In The Smile of the Lamb Grossman widens the human experience of conflict and war with metaphors and symbols, through the lives of men and women, occupier and occupant, to open the mind and descend into the heart’s eye, to witness humanity with all its complexity and tender yearning. We witness the deepest meaning of occupation for human life as well as the loss of morale and identity of the occupier. All this is done with a perfectly clear eye, free of judgement. As life itself.
In Falling Out of Time, after the loss of his son, Grossman writes about this unthinkable tragedy in many voices. Even in this personal anguish he takes his fellow humans into the dark abyss with him. He turns it into a collective human experience and gives voice to all who have lost a child. Like a Greek tragedy, transcending the personal and making it a shattering universal condition.
In See Under: Love Grossman brilliantly explores the world through the eyes and voice of a child. For we as adults are like children in our inability to comprehend the holocaust and how humans could degrade and destroy other humans in such a way. Acknowledging the existence of a fellow writer who died during the holocaust and giving life to his heritage. With his giant yet gentle and unsentimental force, Grossman is brave enough to take something so big and write a deeply universal novel about it. That teaches us new perspectives.
A gentle heart is often mistaken for humbleness. But it is the heartbeat of our soul. The only way true intelligence and understanding of complex matters is delivered right into the heartbeat of the world is when it is filtered through the soft waves of one’s gentle heart.
David Grossman says that writers can weave an invisible web that has enormous power. A world-changing, world-creating power. The power to give voice to the mute. Tikkun ha olam: the recovery of the world in the deepest Kabbalistic sense.
The world we live in right now is in desperate need of a strong narrative, a powerful voice of understanding. One that guides us from division to unity, that opens our hearts and makes room for other narratives, that broadens our understanding.
David Grossman, you are weaving an invisible web of force that undoes the world as we knew it and creates a world in a way that does it more justice. With your work you are mending a torn world, showing us a way out of conflict, showing us a way out of blaming and victimizing. A world where there is hope. Where apathy has no place. Where understanding and a sensitive heart are superpowers for political change and a fulfilling life. If love is what holds the stars in the sky, then the invisible web you are weaving is what holds us in a loving embrace, as a reminder of the force of our own heart at moments when we feel alone in our hope for a better, just and peaceful future.