Excerpt: Lives of the Dead by Hanoch Levin

At Night I Weep With Longing
At night I weep with longing
For all that I’ve no eyes to weep with –
Think – but have no brain to think  –
About the city lights, the time we laughed.

If only you knew, if only you knew
My wife, my soul’s passion,
How I will spend my death in the grave,
How shall I tell you, how shall I write this song?

When My Eyes Grow Dim
When my eyes grow dim
Draw my dead eyes
Into your open eyes
And take my vision that’s thrown in your bosom
And make me some room ‘cause it’s turned cold
‘Cause I loved to be in your warmth
And now I’m so far away from you
But now it’s over,
And there won’t be any more,
We’ll not hug more, because it’s over
It’s done, draw up my eyes
That are dead, into your eyes
There I’ll rest for a little while,
See with your living, seeing eyes
There will be a world to see that I don’t see
That used to be so beloved, and now
Is lost to me, and will not be
Only my dead eyes in your eyes see
In your living eyes my dead eyes living
for a little longer, so long
As you remember, so long.

Hanoch Levin (1943-1999) was born in Palestine to Holocaust survivors from Poland. Originally a poet, he exploded onto the Israeli theatre scene in 1968 with his play You, Me and the Next War, a sharp critique of the 1967 Six-Day War. The play was extremely controversial and the run ended when some of the actors refused to play their parts. Levin continued to make a name for himself by writing and directing plays that critiqued Israeli society. When his denunciation of the Golda Meir administration, The Queen of the Bathtub, opened in 1970, demonstrations again led to a premature closing. As a consequence, Levin withdrew from the public eye, although he continued writing (50 plays in total, 34 of which were produced), directing many of these plays himself. He continued working until the very end, holding auditions for his newest play from his hospital bed.

Atar Hadari was born in Israel, raised in England, trained as an actor and writer at the University of East Anglia before winning a scholarship to study poetry and playwrighting with Derek Walcott at Boston University. His plays have won awards from the BBC, Arts Council of England, National Foundation of Jewish Culture (New York), European Association of Jewish Culture (Brussels) and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was Young Writer in Residence. Plays have been staged at the Finborough Theatre, Wimbledon Studio Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum (where he was a Mentor Playwright), Nat Horne Studio Theatre (New York) and Valdez, Alaska. His “Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik” (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award and his poems have won the Daniel Varoujan award from New England Poetry Club, the Petra Kenney award, a Paumanok poetry award and many other prizes.  His nineteen-page translation of Hanoch Levin’s “Lives of the Dead” filled a third of Poetry magazine in 2009.

Lives of the Dead
Hanoch Levin, Atar Hadari (Tr.)
October 2017, Arc Publications
ISBN: 1908376643

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