the short story project

The Last Time

Shira Stav On:

The Last Time by Tamar Gelbetz

The four segments from Tamar Gelbetz’s book, “The Dead and the Absolutely Living,” are four chapters, seemingly unconnected, from the life of a girl who has become a woman—chapters that illustrate four minute portraits, allegedly trivial, of her family, and focus primarily on the figure of the father from the narrator’s point of view.

These portraits are imbued with aesthetic and linguistic characteristics from a lost analogue world—the fiberglass car Susita, Starsky & Hutch, Dubek cigarettes, halva in cans, and mostly the leisurely, easygoing atmosphere of an unassuming café in the center of the Carmel in Haifa, in a relaxed afternoon, during a meeting that, as we learn only a short time after, turns out to be the last meeting between the father and the daughter. The girl’s adolescence and transition into a woman occurs in different stages of separation and gradual distancing: from the dogged attachment to the warmth and security of the parent’s simple and industrious household, to the personal awareness of the cruelty of the forced, final detachment that death brings—while at the same time providing a new closeness, with the identification that passes through the body and its vulnerability. Gelbetz’s writing, dense in detail, casts an anomalous emphasis on the materiality of language, and creates a sensual texture of flavors, contacts, and memories that are granted fierce tangibility, through the charged voice of humor and pain intertwined.