CULTURE

Former Israeli film star presents novel in Athens

The wavy blonde hair, bright-red lips and chain-smoking habit make her look like a star from the 1940s, but Alona Kimchi is a writer from Israel who recently visited Athens to present her novel, «No More Tears, Suzanne.» An international best seller, the title has just been translated into Greek and published locally by Psychogios Press. Nowadays devoted to writing, Kimchi is a celebrity back home, dating from the days when she was a well-known actress. «In Israel,» she pointed out, «they recognize me on the streets.» Despite conveying a definite, old Hollywood-type look as she sat comfortably in a deep couch at a cafe in her downtown hotel, the actress-turned-writer remains a down-to-earth, sharp and coherent speaker. She jump-started the interview, and also gave it direction by asserting that she liked «talking about politics.» As an Israeli citizen, Kimchi said, she has no other choice than to think politics. In Israel, she asserted, everything revolves around «survival, not potential.» Kimchi’s «No More Tears, Suzanne,» a widely translated title, has proven particularly popular among the French. A film based on the novel is in the works in France. The novel depicts the life of a woman who never ceases to amaze herself with the choices she makes. The celebrity author said she considers herself a «Jew and a leftist» but, when confronted by simplistic reasoning and ignorance abroad, she adopts a more middle-of-the-road stance to «find an equilibrium.» Her generation of writers are changing the perception of society. Instead of the more customary collective «we» view of postwar socialists, when the state of Israel had just been founded, Kimchi and her contemporaries have been forging a more subjective approach through their work as «society grows more mature and now counts a life span that has exceeded 50 years.» In Israel, she bears the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe. Until the age of 6, Kimchi lived in the ex-Soviet Union, in Livov, Ukraine, close to the Polish borders, before her family relocated to Israel. «I had a strong Russian accent until the age of 18 because we lived in the ghettos inhabited by Soviet immigrants,» Kimchi recalled. «I only began losing the accent and integrating with society when I served in the army,» she added. Nowadays a successful author and mother of one child, a son, Kimchi travels frequently but remains deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. She continues to reside in the thick of it, in Tel Aviv, her great love. She offered an interesting description of the city. «It’s a city of joy. It’s an ugly city characterized by architecture of the 1960s, but everything there vibrates with faith in life. The wind carries you away; the poisoned air of Jerusalem does not exist,» said Kimchi. «Bars, restaurants, book shops, hotels, youth culture and the European tradition brought along by immigrants makes the city’s residents feel like they’re living in Manhattan’s Mediterranean version.» Kimchi feels a strong connection with Europe and believes that a new type of European culture has developed in Israel from the seeds sown by the early settlers. However, her basic influences, these days, Kimchi noted, stem from the USA. She describes Israel as a dynamic and multicultural society where ethnic groups are constantly striving to find their roots. Assimilation coexists with differentiation. The author admitted feeling disappointed by the present political situation in her country, but hopes that something good can come out of «the Middle East’s only democracy.»