Orson Scott Card – Angles on the Longing for Zion
April 26, 2012 at 9:28 am, by Timna Burston
“Dry or wet, flat or mountainous, the home to which you are forbidden to return is beautiful in dreams.” – Orson Scott Card, “Angles.”
As Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, comes closer, it gets harder and harder to be away from my homeland. It starts with the Pesach Seder and untenable realities of trying to contact my parents via Skype to share what should always be a family experience. It continues with the horrors of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), knowing that my mother will be crying over her memorial candle without me. And nothing is harder than hearing my national anthem, Hatikvah, on the broken tongues and unyielding R’s of my young students. In Babylon, I am told, they sat down and cried. Here, I do my best to tell my students of the sights, the smells and the tastes of my world, which is accessible and yet infinitely foreign to them, as though it were on another planet.
Lately, I have been reading a magnificent collection of stories by Orson Scott Card, which dives boldly into the realms of myth and legend, bridging history, narrative and fantasy. His story “Atlantis” is a remarkable endeavor to explain the character and motivation of Noah and those who did not survive the flood, seamlessly weaving together legends of the flood from many cultures. “Space Boy” alludes to an absurd take on Jonah, as a child embarks on a journey through the bowels of a monster (in this case a huge, multidimensional space worm) whose mouth and backside exist simultaneously on another planet and in his little brother’s closet and garden shed.
Of all of these, the most fragmented and haphazard is “Angles.” It brings together all sorts of ideas that Card had , some of which are mind-bending and some poignant. The somewhat confusing style does, however, mirror the content, as Card’s story is about memory recall, and the notion that we store our memories by slanting parts of our brain cells (quite literally bending our mind) and accessing a parallel Universe. This process is called angling, because we access our own, same world, from a different perspective, in which different realities exist.
I think the mark of a good sci-fi or fantasy story is not when the author manages to create a world for its own sake, but rather to tell us things about our own. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a clear allusion to the state of the world after World War I. Douglas Adams’ wild and crazy Hitchhiker is the story of a drab Londoner facing infinitely more interesting cultures and still desperately trying to convince their sentient robots to make a decent cup of tea. Orson Scott Card is a master of using this genre to bring up the painful and confusing about our world.
Without revealing too much of the story, I can say that one of the main attributes of our world, our angle, is the longing to go home. In the case of the Zionists in the book, they only wish to find an angle in history where they can live in peace in their land, without having the historical baggage of displacing others to do so, free of intruders and conflict. The burning passion of the Jews in the story is to have a world where they can have a homeland, which would not come at the expense of others. For this, they would go to great lengths and risk immeasurable dangers. I am not sure whether such a Universe exists, but if it is there, I believe Card is right–my people would go to any lengths to find it.
“To be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem” – from “Hatikvah” (“The Hope”)
Tags: Angles, Atlantis, Babylon, Card, Diaspora, Douglas Aams, Hitchhiker, Hitchkicker's Guide to the Galaxy, hope, Israel, Israeli Independence Day, J. R. Tolkien, Jerusalem, Jonah, Lord of the Rings, Noah, Orson Scott Card, parallel universe, Pesach, Seder, Space Boy, The Hope, Tolkien, Universe, Yom Ha-shoah, Yom Ha'atzma'ut, Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Zion, Zionism, Zionists, התקוה, התקווה, יום הזיכרון, יום הזכרון, יום העצמאות, יום השואה, ירושלים, להיות, להיות עם חופשי, סדר, עם, פסח, ציון