Duality is perhaps the most apt word to sum up the skill and mindset of author Yael Hedaya, who spoke last Tuesday at Russell House in the Contemporary Israeli Voices Series. In her four-part lecture, entitled “Love is a Four-Letter Word: How My Life Changed My Writing and My Writing Changed My Life,” Hedaya spoke on the dichotomy of the sexes, the struggle between romance and intellect, and life as an Israeli and an American.
The author, who writes in Hebrew, started off the evening speaking on the struggle between her life’s two loves: writing and men. Both sincere and eloquent, Hedaya spoke with a self-deprecating, caustic wit.
“Young writers are infatuated with words,” Hedaya said, referring to her first novel “Dramatic Persona.” “You think you can control them to do anything, that you have this power. But they really control you—you’re naïve and powerless!”
In the wake of this realization, the author strove to take her focus off of the words themselves and placed them on understanding her characters. Hedaya admitted that her female heroines are often loosely based on herself, though entire stories have been inspired by events as trivial as a drive along a freeway. This change in the author’s understanding of writing was quite apparent when she read an excerpt from her second novel, “Accidents,” a slow-paced love story exploring familial and romantic love as well as the passion of sex and the pain in death.
“I thought it was very striking how her life connected so directly with what she wrote about,” said Aaron Freedman ’10. “For me, I was almost embarrassed for her because of how boldly she described her problems with men and her love life, and how she was writing so genuinely despite the fact that it was a thinly veiled autobiographical perspective. It
was refreshing, an interesting genre.”
However, Hedaya is hesitant to let herself be classified. Because of her works’ focus on relationships between men and women, her novels have been referred to as “feminist” or “woman” literature. The author spoke on how she loathes these categories, and considers her work to be, above all, human stories.
“I hate the gender classification of literature,” Hedaya said. “If a women’s organization asks me to come speak at an event, I refuse. I don’t want critics to relate to my ‘issues’ but to my style of writing.”
Her four published novels are widely read in Israel, with her most recent book “Eden” being hailed by critics as the attempt to write the great Israeli novel.
Hedaya’s skills as a writer are perhaps as versatile as her experiences. Though she divides her time mainly between her novels and working for a Tel Aviv publication, she is also currently a writer on one of Israeli’s most popular and successful TV shows. Recently bought by HBO, “In Therapy” chronicles a half-hour session between a therapist and his patients as well of the intricacies of the ensuing relationships. Much like Hedaya’s books, the show’s dialogues are painfully honest and sincere.
“Hedaya’s writing for the show really gave an emotionally insightful view of the relationship between therapists and their patients,” said Emily Evnen ’10. “She writes with a lot of honesty. People should find an easy time relating to the truth her words evoke. The things we don’t really want to admit to.”
Perhaps the archetypical idea of Hedaya’s works is to, as humans, question passion and closeness, to doubt the sincerity of desire rooted in the unobtainable, and to ultimately find truth within that. Indeed, whether on page or on the screen, Hedaya’s words ring true to the insecurities within many of us.