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Le Voile de l’Ange | Book review by Bernard Perroy

[The following is a brief translation of Bernard Perroy’s original review in French, with Anna-Marie Ravitzki’s poems in French]

 « Je veux avoir un voile d’ange » (p.9) [I want to have an angel’s veil] writes Anna-Marie Ravitzki in the very first pages of her poetry book, which includes 33 poems and four wonderful illustrations by Avi S. Ravitzki, her husband, a sculptor, artist, and truffle farmer in the Périgord Noir area of the South of France, where they both live.

After reading the book, you are left with an intense impression: we are completely captivated by the lively spirit of the writer, the wealth of her thoughts, her passions, the richness and uniqueness of her words, drawn with imagery and courageously soldered using ingenious linguistic condensations that we would otherwise call “surrealistic” were the term not overused, worn out, and distanced from the writer’s Hebrew heritage.

This is Anna-Marie Ravitzki’s first collection of poems in French, translated from Hebrew by Emmanuel Moses – a poet and author in his own right. Emmanuel Moses states that a second book by Anna-Marie Ravitzki – the first really, by order of writing – is soon to be launched by Obsidiane publishing house. The periodical Secousse has recently published several of her poems.

*

A path of passion

From start to end, the book reads like a path of passion:

« Parfois je me noie dans le désir
De cette chose inatteignable
(…) Il est interdit de perdre les désirs
De perdre délibérément la vie »
 (p.15)

The scarlet thread of passion passes through all of life’s dimensions: the passion of the body, passion of the heart, passion of thoughts, passion of relationships, passion to be with your own self, within your own story, your own identity, your childhood, your roots and your own lack of roots… Anna-Marie Ravitzki wants to go towards what she feels is bigger than the whole world. That “world beyond” is constantly occupying her thoughts, it is a world well beyond knowledge, understanding, or feeling…

« Je désire tout ce qui m’échappe » (p.8)

(…) voyageuse que je suis
Fille des plaines prodigue
Risible par mes tourments vertigineux »
 (p.11)

« Les graines qui m’ont fécondée
M’inspirent des idées d’éternité »
 (p.10)

 And these wonderful lines perfectly encapsulate her writing, and all the themes within it:

« La vie est un miracle
Un univers de guérison
Une paire de socquettes blanches sur des pieds gelés
La vie est un tas de vertiges qui tournoient
Entre la tête et la région lombaire
Entre le cou et la trachée-artère.
Je m’y consume
Assoiffée de désir dans ce quotidien »
 (p.19)

*

Body and soul

The intellectual, metaphysical, spiritual investigation… and all that which creates the materialistic and corporal fabric of everyday life, intermingles with passion, resonates and penetrates, but not without humor! Anna-Marie Ravitzki’s texts spread across the entire page or much of it. They call for eternity, for that desire of things transparent, for comprehending their meaning, in the void and also in « alleluias qui pénètrent dans chaque goutte de mystère » (p28) [Hallelujah hymns that penetrate every drop of mystery]… Despite this, they are dependent on the concreteness of life, experienced through the five senses; life and its expressions, lack, and pleasures… and the words represent the reality incarnated in our human condition:

« Nous sommes nous aussi des mammifères allaités au sein » (p.20)

« Et ma tête (…)
A compris le goût du sel collée à la plante de mes pieds » 
(p.13)

« J’ai de l’encre sur mes lèvres
Qui coule de ma bouche
J’écris avec ma salive » 
(p.14)

We are exposed to this intimate relationship between body and language, precisely because Anna-Marie Ravitzki is the primordial daughter of the Book, daughter of the Holy Scriptures, daughter of the Torah, all rendered worthless without words to serve us in our most essential daily dealings:

« J’implore le don d’une copie du manuscrit ancien
Qui se dicterait sur mon corps » (
p.14)

« Je veux me vieillir à en mourir dans la langue de la Torah » (p.29)

« …perles des profondeurs
Accumulant toute mon histoire en une seule vague
Qui submerge mon corps de grandes tentations
Et inscrit sur ma peau les Saintes Ecritures. »
 (p.31)

*

In perpetual motion

For Anna-Marie Ravitzki (who taught philosophy for a long time), the bubbling images correspond to thoughts that boil up, from which she would like, at times, to disconnect.

« Je ne suis que les signes sur le corps
Je suis des réflexions infinies sur la nature de l’homme » 
(p.25)

« Mon intellect enflamme les mots » (p.24)

« Mes pensées se dirigent d’elles-mêmes
Vers une dimension qui me crache à la figure
(…) Ma curiosité est grande » 
(p.33)

The poet tells us of the stirring « l’effervescence qui pétille dans mon âme comme du champagne » (p.39) [that bubbles in my soul like champaign], which she would like to sometimes prevent so that « trouver sa respiration dans des pensées simples » (p.39) [breath yourself in simple thoughts]. But the source of this internal movement is apparently rooted in history itself, in the personal and collective life-story, Anna-Marie Ravitzki was born in Tel Aviv « fille d’immigrés » (p.30) [daughter of immigrants], « à la recherche de l’amour » (p.40) [in search of love] within « ces sentiers blessés » (p38) [these wounded trails]. The fundamental movement is walking, on a path: path of the body, path of the soul.

Oftentimes, the writer defines herself as a foreigner, a bohemian, a minority of minorities, afflicted with a sense of exile, an internal and external exile… and much like God’s promise to Abraham « Go forth (to yourself) » (Gn 12, 1) a promise we also find in the Song of Songs (Canticles 2:10), Anna-Marie confesses to us that: « Je vais mon chemin face à moi-même » (p.38) [I make my way facing myself], between memory and the future, but also in the present, which entirely contains entirety within itself:

«  Je cherche tout ce qui s’est perdu sur le balcon de l’enfance » (p.22)

« Le présent est l’arme de mon existence disimulée depuis mon enfance » (p.23)

« Je fraie un chemin vers un lieu inondé de battements de coeur » (p.40)

« J’élague les bruits chaque matin
Je les dépose sur les brumes
Et je sais qu’aujourd’hui je vis. » 
(p.44)

 *

Thirst of a lover

References to the Bible in her songs, as we have just seen, are plentiful. Emmanuel Moses, the translator of her poems, emphasizes that Anna-Marie Ravitzki “studied Jewish philosophy in depth”. He adds: “The Bible, just like the New Testament to which she also feels a close affinity, especially to figures like Mary Magdalene – as is clearly apparently in her book published by Obsidiane – traverses and nurtures her work.” She employs biblical frameworks and expressions taken form Jewish tradition, religious incantations, Kabala, the Yiddish language… with which she literally plays around!

Through all this, Anna-Marie Ravitzki confesses her need for love, her ardor, all her passions, and she feels this closeness with the figure of Mary Magdalene, both with who she was before meeting Christ and certainly after, bearing happiness and purifying tears… only true love purifies, a love we all seek but each one experiences according to their own way and ability. She expresses wonderfully how « les touchers (d’amour) que la chair vivante a connus sont la clé de mon devenir » (p.36) [those touches (of love) all on the live flesh are the key to my life’s being]. « Je suis étrangère, par ma fougue aussi » (p.37) [I am a stranger, in a strange storm]. She says she wants to « connaître tous les trottoirs de la ville » (p.41) [get acquainted with all the sidewalks of this city] (and we are reminded of the lover from the Song of Song, desperately longing to find her lover on all the streets of his town). She says she is « une enfant des rues » [a child of the street], and then also « l’amante vulgaire de cette ville » (p.41) [the cheap lover of this city], a child of all our contradictions, all our prostitutions, all our sicknesses of love…

The pinnacle moment, beautiful and profound, ever so sincere and pertinently essential, is the moment of meeting, where « le refuge du coeur » (p.41) [the refuge of the heart], « cette musique intérieure / m’appelle par mon prénom » (p.44) [this internal music / calling me by my first name], the mentioning of Christ’s resurrection, in the garden by the empty grave, where he calls Mary Magdalene by her first name, while she imagines him to be the gardener. And then she calls out to him “Master!”, recognizing Christ, in her joy of being known, of being acknowledged and truly loved by this God that is all love…