23 June 12 | Sarah Winstein-Hibbs

The world lost an incredible writer this past week. Jewish-Argentinean author Alicia Steimberg, best-known for her novel Musicians and Watchmakers, died suddenly of a heart attack one week ago. To commemorate her life and works, JewishFiction.net has published an early-release excerpt of her novel Innocent Spirit, which was scheduled to print in the upcoming August issue.

Says editor Nora Gold of Steimberg: “During the preceding months, [Steimberg] and I were in touch a number of times . . . Even in the short time we corresponded, it was obvious what an unusual person she was: full of warmth and completely unpretentious.”

Click here to read Steimberg’s excerpted novel. Her text grapples with tensions of faith, social status, and coming-of-age in a devoutly Catholic society: “. . .we never discuss our respective misery,” her middle-school narrator confesses. “In our class there are at least two girls who are driven to school by a private chauffeur. It’s a sure bet they don’t leave used sanitary napkins under their dressers. And they don’t carry a thermos with hot coffee and milk into their bedrooms, either, in order to be able to get up in the icy mornings when it’s colder inside the house than out.” Steimberg poignantly and precisely captures the confusion and insecurity of adolescence, as well as the devastating sense of “otherness” experienced by her Jewish narrator.

Following the excerpt, translator Andrea Labinger shares a moving tribute to Steimberg. The author’s irrepressible, joyful spirit comes to life in Labinger’s prose: “Alicia never distinguished between the minutia of everyday life – the aroma of coffee, a recipe for pastel de papas, the intimate language of eroticism and the erotic intimacy of language – and her constant preoccupation with the “big,” transcendental questions. Like most great souls, Alicia didn’t take herself too seriously.”


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