To Put a Finger on the Wound

To Put a Finger on the Wound

Israeli author and social activist David Grossman.

He's been beaten by Israeli police (2010) for protesting the spread of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. He's lost a son (2006) to the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. And, less cruelly, he's been labeled a naive left-wing type because of his firm stance against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip.

Recently, I cracked open David Grossman's book The Yellow Wind, which features reportage-style stories describing the lives of Palestinians under occupation. Written in 1987 before the First Intifada but published in 1988, The Yellow Wind was—quite naturally—controversially received. However, in its review of Grossman's book, Publishers Weekly writes, "The 34-year-old Israeli novelist spent seven weeks in the area, and his is one of the most stirring, refreshing voices of moral conscience to emerge from the depths of this political imbroglio."

Perhaps, in time, The Yellow Wind will prompt this writer toward more concerted reflection on Israel/Palestine. For now, I wanted to share what, for me, is one of the most quotable moments in the book.

It happens early in the Introduction where Grossman is distinguishing the work of writers from the work of politicians. (Each can only accomplish so much, right?) Here he brings into sharp focus the power of writing for the possibility of social change—

I am a writer and not a politician, and the writer's job, I believe, is to put a finger on the wound, to write anew, in a language that the reader has not yet learned to insulate himself against, about the intricacies of the existing situation, to shatter stereotypes that make it easy not to deal with the problems. The writer's job is to remind those who have forgotten that humanity and morality are still important questions and to warn of the future implied by the present.
—David Grossman

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