Monday, June 15, 2009

Boris Fishman, writer

I first met Boris Fishman in the laundry room of my building. He was the only one there when I went to the basement late one cold Sunday night. He was looking through the magazines in the bookcase, but when I arrived he seemed happy to have company and he asked me how to operate the washing machine. We began a discussion that would last for almost an hour. We talked about Minsk. Minsk gave us a common denominator, because my ancestors were from Minsk. I remember thinking he was a strong masculine presence... and he was memorable. After that night, I saw him again several times and we always talked... but I never asked to interview him for this blog. He's the interview that got away.

Boris Fishman is quite an accomplished author, and he has written many pieces which appear in an extensive list of publications. He wrote an article called, ""Paid in Persimmons," which was published in "Departures Magazine" on October 1st 2007. In the article, he tells about his experience of leaving the USSR as a Soviet Jew. His family emigrated via Italy, and in the article he talks about his landlady, Signora Limona: It was mid-October and one day after he finished raking leaves, she gave him three persimmons.

When the day came for Boris's family to leave, they passed Signora Limona in the village square where she sat reading a newspaper. She saw his family and then quickly disappeared into the house. Boris writes: "A minute later she emerged, carrying in her hand a parting gift of the clay-colored fruit that would bind me to that autumn forever."

Boris's writing is moving and very powerful, and I am sorry I will not be able to properly interview him for this blog. But, my discussion with Boris, on a cold winter night in a basement laundry room, will remain with me forever.

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