“Two old Holocaust refugee women live in the garage of 29 November Street, Old Katamon, in Jerusalem. When we passed their home we used to stone the garage door”
This sentence that appears as an introduction to my book Promenade a Deux was written as a homage to those two solitary old women who lived in a dark and narrow garage in the early 1960’s. Even today I do not understand why we stoned their entry gates – maybe because they spoke German, maybe because they had numbers tattooed on their arms. Maybe it was because they were just different from us or maybe because we were ignorant children afraid of anything that we were unfamiliar with.
In the same garage I have placed the plot of this book and in this place lived imaginary heroes – the child Orion and the mysterious Yohanna who had raised him. Orion who was born under the sign of the Scorpion in November 1967, did not have the privilege of knowing his father. Uri-Ulrich. His father was 3 years old when he came to Israel from Germany immediately after the Second World War and was killed in the 1967 Six Day War. Orion was named after the mythological hunter who died from the sting of a scorpion. After his death the mythological Orion became a bright constellation in the sky.
Our hero bears all the characteristics of a “Scorpio“ – his movements replicate the movements of the Scorpion – moving to the left and right, back and forth, careful and deliberate. He sheds the obstacles of life from his shoulders. He is decisive and is determined to carry all his secrets, his pain and his aspirations like the female scorpion who carries her offspring on her back.
The two women who raise Orion in an abandoned Arab house in Old Katamon in Jerusalem came from “There”. Yohanna ,the older one, is a midwife of German origin and Aviva her young daughter-in-law, an orphan , is a teacher of Nature Studies. Yohanna is introverted ,meticulous, and devoted to the memory of Uri -Ulrich and the education of Orion. This devotion extends to her job, her parrot and her cat. She lives modestly and speaks terrible Hebrew Aviva was widowed after only a few months of marriage and before she was able to enjoy the taste of family. She has developed a hunger for life. Both women have an urge for something intangible and they float in a space that the child is unable to fill for them . This is why the atmosphere in the house is full of uncertainty and anticipation. They are extremely protective of Orion both from his past and the future.
But family secrets are doomed to be revealed and Orion must face the revelation of his own self. He achieves this with the help of a third woman – Christina -Anna, who he calls in Yiddish. Beshert -the one who is destined to be with me. In the world that surrounds Orion, the temporary always fades into the permanent. Love is not self obvious, the flowers have their own language, voices and smells have taste and colour. A male parrot ( Sarah) speaks several languages and is blessed with human feelings; and an Ice Cream van which has been converted into a mobile library ,has a sense of humour and acts with an independent will. While scorpions, books, a creeping bush of Wisteria and the sweet smell of the lilac are themes that run through the story and connect everyone.
I decided to name the book by the harsh name Promenade a Deux ( The Scorpion’s Dance) not only because of Orion’s Zodiac sign but also because scorpions are revealed to him often in the Sky and on Earth. Sometimes as a shedding of the molts of scorpions in an abandoned house, sometimes in the stars and sometimes in an erotic dance that he dances with his German lover The story is told as the Love Dance of the Scorpions and it draws the reader forwards, backwards and to the sides in a non linear ( chronological ) way But the Scorpion’s Dance in the book is not only a romantic /artistic / erotic act but is mostly about the struggle for survival. The dance of Israelis, Palestinians and Germans.
“I was naive to assume” Orion writes “that we are dancing a courting dance. Today I wonder whether they express horror and fear by the dance. It is not because of their love they hold each others pincers ,but because they are afraid to be mortally stung from each others sting.”
When I completed the book I felt that I had broken the “glass ceiling “ of Women’s writing. Up to this date all my novels “gave women the stage” but here I concentrate on a very complex character of a man. During the writing in first person masculine I recalled Virginia Woolf ‘s description “that writing is situated in the androgynous brain that does not surrender to a gender stereotype.”
Ministry of Culture and Sport Award 1015
English Foreign rights agent: The Deborah Harris Agency
“There are not enough words than can illustrate the essence of Shifra Horn’s outstanding book.
Her decision to write in such an impressive and sincere way in the masculine voice inside her ,
was a very daring gamble and the outcome is extremely successful .
The masculine voice utilizes in a virtuous way , the multi coloured language and enormous
knowledge that the hero is given by the author.
There is a deep enchantment in the combination of realism and the soft and caressing liturgy
which convinces the reader to believe that Orion is alive and authentic
There is no doubt that this is a magic concoction of a brave and clever writer who can write
about life and death with warm intimacy, and does not avoid microscopic descriptions that are
full of empathy . Horn’s writing about nature are the most beautiful I have ever read. A person
who writes like this is a person who has experienced great love and is prepared to share it with
others. This novel is an alive and breathing organism that continues to stay with us with its
colours, smells and voices for a long period after we have left it”
Rivka Keren ( author and critic for Haaretz and ‘Books’ magazine )
“I consider myself a skilled reader and if I state in firm and decisive terms that this book is an
amazing and accomplished achievement and a wonderful novel – you can believe me
The book is not easy to read but in my opinion it deserves the investment in time and effort to
read it . Not only because of its interesting plot or both the hidden and the obvious themes but
also the unique architectural structure of the work . It exhibits the most wonderful language skills
of Shifra Horn .Her use of the Hebrew language can be compared to the author S. Yizhar
The book is written in first person masculine. Exactly as Amos Oz who managed to excite
emotions with his “My Michael “ writing in first person feminine , so does Shifra Horn in
her ‘male voice’ .”
Dr Moshe Granot ( Literary Critic and Researcher )
“This book is written with a special music , in a rich language – sensuous and flowing.
Promenade a Deux stimulates the senses and emotions of the reader and moves between the
circle of memory and the circle of forgotten past”
Shlomit Cohen Assif ( Writer )