Stalin Is Dead

Rachel Shihor

Illustration by Guillaume Gilbert


Since there is nowhere a human being that has not—at least once in their lifetime—dreamed, it is generally agreed among people that literature is needed. But this is neither a justification of literature, nor a proof of its existence. It is the same with God.

The Nursery Teacher

All eyes to me! said the nursery teacher. Up to now, you have managed all your tasks well, but should one towel drop, should one fly cross the room, you will need to start all over again. A fly and a towel, and everything will start to move exactly the same way as before. Nothing will be missed. You will have to be reborn and everything will begin all over again.

A Recollection

The first time I sloughed off my skin, there was already something strange about it. I did not know that it was a sloughing. I did not know what sloughing was. I called my parents and they came over, swathed in deep sleep.

The second time it happened, everyone was preoccupied, there were much graver issues at hand. My sloughing passed without much attention. I had a childhood recollection that did not matter much now. I cleared the leftovers, since that was the thing to do.

The third time I sloughed off my skin, I did it gently. It was quiet. The right time had arrived. The others didn't matter any more. The slough shrivelled as if it were not willing to withdraw completely. I saw that several thin red worms were pulling at it wildly. They were somehow trying to persuade it to remain. But if it were to remain, then it would not enjoy their company. This sloughing, I said to myself, will end badly.

The Train

It was my misfortune to have been born inside a mine. There I spent my youth and there I grew up. No one knew of this and no one invited me over. They did not know me, they did not ask me to come up so that I might entertain them.

Sometimes trains would pass above the mine. When the train was far away I would feel the high walls of the mine vibrating faintly; when the train came closer, these vibrations became stronger, and when the train passed, little chunks of granite from the ceiling would fall on my head. So fast was the passing train and so slow were my movements inside the mine.

Once I climbed up to see the light of day and to see the world. Alongside black rail tracks I saw crushed weeds.

translated from the Hebrew by Ornan Rotem

Used by permission of Sylph Editions. Stalin Is Dead  will be out in stores in November 2013.

Click here to read Mona Gainer-Salim on Rachel Shihor, also published in the Jul 2013 issue.