The Confessions of Noa Weber

I have a love-hate affair with Overdrive. I love that I can borrow and return books without having to leave my bed. It’s got a pretty good selection – you should see my ‘wish list’ (where I’ve added books to read). But it also sucks – I can’t highlight passages, I can only bookmark pages. I know it’s a borrowed e-book but I would love to be able to highlight sections of the book to come back to later when I’m writing my review. But no…. just bookmarks, no highlighting, no note-taking.

So here I am stuck with many ‘bookmarks’ on the Overdrive e-book I’m blogging about, The Confessions of Noa Weber.

One of which was on page 10. And which I later realised was bookmarked for this passage:

“To confess to the finish… to confess till it finishes me off… to talk about him, to talk about myself, to talk so I won’t have to bear it any more. To talk until I can’t stand myself any longer. To talk, to talk, to talk myself to death – this is apparently why I’m standing here before you today.”

And that is essentially what The Confessions of Noa Weber is about. Noa Weber is 47 years old, a writer of crime novels (her protagonist is a very busty woman called Nira Woolf) in Israel. Her daughter is turning 29. And she has, for 30 years or so, been obsessively in love with Alek, whom she first met at a party as a teen and married to avoid being drafted.

It is an unrequited love:

“I loved him. And Alek wasn’t in love with me. And in spite of my youth, I did not give way to the temptation to interpret various gestures of his as possible manifestations of love. I did not count my steps to the refrain of ‘he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…’. And even when I read between the lines – lovers will always read between the lines, they are never satisfied with the manifest content – I did not deceive myself by discovering signs of a feeling he did not possess. I loved him, and precisely for that reasons, I knew that he didn’t love me.”

This book could easily have sunken into some kind of weird deranged blog-style rant. Isn’t that what one immediately thinks of when it comes to obsessions? And this is some obsession. But Noa isn’t some pathetic lovelorn woman. Sure, as a young pregnant girl she was:

“What happened to me during the birth was that I began to think about pain as a kind of sacrifice I was making for Alek, as if I had surrendered to pain for his sake.”

But the Noa Weber writing this ‘confession’ is more mature and self-aware, she is unfaltering in her need to confess. And she is also really dead on when it comes to her thoughts about love, young love, not-so-young love, unconditional love. It becomes quite philosophical, thoughtful.

However, I kept glancing at the bottom right corner of the Overdrive app, which tells me just how many pages are left. Because this isn’t the easiest book to read. It does get kind of annoying at times, so often I wanted to tell her, enough with Alek already. He’s not in love with you. He’s got other women, he’s even got other children by those women. But you know what? There’s no need. Because she knows all that already. She does. She is, after all, confessing all this to the reader. So I am guilty of skimming, a little on this page, a little on that. Because she gets a bit repetitive. So maybe I might have missed out on a few crucial emo bits, but sometimes skimming makes for a better book reading, because I can get on with it and move to another book.

So that’s my confession. I am a skimmer when the need arises. And in parts of this book, it did. But there is some part of me that understands Noa Weber and her unrequited love, I guess somewhere (perhaps buried deep inside) most of us, we would understand how she feels:

“There will never be a summer for us. Never in any summer will I walk with him along foreign streets, with their desperate squalor and their desperate splendor that I seem to know from some previous incarnation. And never will I experience again the consciousness of infinite expanses where everything seems pointless but love itself. Love will never expand me. The one right body will never come to me.”

The New Yorker published a short story by Hareven in 2009 which you can read here.

Title: The Confessions of Noa Weber
Author: Gail Hareven
Translated from Hebrew by Dalya Bilu
Originally published in 2000 (Published in English in 2009)

I read this book for my own personal challenge: February in Translation!