It was, as the host billed it, a night to “eavesdrop” on a pair of well-known authors. Tonight, I sat among just 25 people at a Newton, Mass., coffee shop as author Elinor Lipman quizzed fellow novelist Anita Diamant about her new book, Day After Night.
Jbooks.com, an online site about Jewish books, brought the two Jewish authors together after hearing that Lipman, author of many beloved novels, was besotted with Diamant’s new work.
Here are some tidbits from the authors’ chat:
- Day After Night was so riveting for Lipman that she read it in one fell swoop on a train ride home to New York from Boston last fall. “I adored it, and I cried,” said Lipman, whose latest book is The Family Man. Diamant’s new book fictionalizes the true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than 200 prisoners from the Atlit internment camp in Israel. The British military was keeping the “illegal immigrants” in the camps.
- The idea for the book came to Diamant an instant while she was in Israel touring Atlit with her daughter. “They re-traumatized people who had been in concentration camps,” she said of the British.
- Yes, Diamant was worried about the Israeli response to her book. She was an American Jew writing about a slice of history that was uniquely Israeli. “Here I am, an American who speaks no Hebrew and uses a translator.” Her worries were unfounded. The book, published in Hebrew a few weeks ago, has made it on a bestseller list in Israel.
- Diamant is a quick-witted speaker. Asked to talk about her parents, she said they were Holocaust survivors from different countries, and hence, Yiddish, French, Italian, and German were spoken in her home as a child. “And you speak?” Lipman asked. “English,” Diamant answered.
- All writers, including published ones, have to work hard to keep their fingers on the keyboard. Diamant has a regular writing partner, novelist Stephen McCauley. They agree to specific times for writing in various places, including libraries. “It’s a way to keep an ass in the chair,” Diamant said.