A World of his Own

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A World of His Own: Eli Avivi

After further sailing trips to Africa, Avivi returned to Israel, still in his early twenties. He studied the history of the area habitation goes back, at least, to the Phoenician era, 1, years BC and he began collecting all kinds of interesting artifacts. His huge collection of pottery, stone tablets, weapons and implements are housed in his own museum. Many were found on underwater dives.


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In the early s he met and married his wife Rina. Although Avivi had lived at Akhziv for 10 years by then, he had no conventional legal claim to the land. He was essentially a squatter. He feels that because of his efforts in creating a museum and a home he had a right to stay. The situation changed in , though. The government obtained an order against him. But at the time he was so angry he convened a huge press conference to plead his case. He became a media celebrity.

I just wanted to be allowed to live in my own place, in my own way. So in the same year Avivi declared the creation of the State of Akhzivland with himself as president.

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And as in his childhood days, the judge was lenient. This legal ambiguity over the status of Akhzivland continues to this day. People visited Akhzivland to camp or stay in the hostel that Avivi had built. With peace and quiet and a gorgeous beach a two-minute walk away, it became very popular. Israeli rock bands played concerts and young people from abroad would arrive and help around the place in return for their food and lodging.


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  8. Akhzivland is still very popular with Israelis and as tourism to the country begins to recover, Avivi is hoping for more overseas visitors in the future. This is true, but why is it so? Whatever I perceive or imagine amazes me by its particularity. The qualities it has in common with other things—leaves, a trunk, branches, if it is a tree: limbs, eyes, hair, if it is a person—appear to me to be superficial. I am deeply struck by the uniqueness of each event. From this arises my difficulty as a writer—perhaps the magnificent impossibility of my being a writer.

    How am I to convey such uniqueness? The obvious way is to establish uniqueness through development. In this way the uniqueness of an event can be explained by its causes and effects. But I have little sense of unfolding time.

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    The relations which I perceive between things—and these often include causal and historical relations—tend to form in my mind a complex synchronic pattern. I see fields where others sees chapters. And so I am forced to use another method to try to place and define events.

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    A method which searches for co-ordinates extensively in space, rather than consequentially in time. I write in the spirit of a geometrician. One of the ways in which I establish co-ordinates extensively is by likening aspect with aspect, by way of metaphor. On the bed they were not such prisoners.

    The passage is remarkable for its autobiographical mawkishness— G. The plot centers on G. The plot, we could say, is an allegory of the birth of Berger the radical out of the death of Berger the aesthete. In short, often koan-like paragraphs, Berger frees himself from the development of historical narrative on a single, one-directional temporal trajectory. It is all very effective and astonishing.

    The horizon, the edge of the ocean, is revealed to be the same as the curtain of a massive theater. After September 11, Berger—a lifelong Marxist, though a member of no communist or socialist party—published Hold Everything Dear , a collection of political essays that reads more like moral philosophy than politics and more like storytelling than either genre. They are helpful: without his gift for global abstraction we might forget that walls make of the whole world not a theater but the negative image of a theater, a large prison, one in which all workers are treated like prisoners—in which every dispossessed and alienated person shares their unfreedom with everyone else.

    The promise of a movement is its future victory; whereas the promise of the incidental moments is instantaneous.

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    Such moments include, life-enhancingly or tragically, experiences of freedom in action. Freedom without actions does not exist. As with the passage in G. But the question of social rights was always a subset of the idea of universal justice, which required an idea of the universally human. The dialectical back-and-forth between general and particular, universal and concrete, produced a bravery at once invisible to its excruciatingly modest possessor and a lamp to the thinking world.

    In , Berger visited Palestine. How could it, if he was truthful? He also brought with him that way of seeing so capacious and so much his own:.

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    Today there is not a wall in the town centre of Ramallah, now the capital of the Palestinian Authority, which is not covered with photographs of the dead taken when alive and now reprinted as small posters. The dead are the martyrs of the Second Intifada, which began in September The martyrs include all those killed by the Israeli army and settlers, and those who decided to sacrifice themselves in suicidal counter-attacks.

    Berger treats these images as if they were Fayum portraits—including the images of martyrs. For precisely this reason, and unlike most public intellectuals, Berger gives hope to the precise degree that he excoriates almost everything in our world. Throughout his work, he performs that rare—that tragically rare—Marxist trick of transforming the idea that the world is horrible into a source of deep comfort, of energy, of action but also of peace. He was as certain as anyone that pain was near-constant, that uncertainty surrounded the flickering light of consciousness, that the only hope of stripping away the blindness to which we are subject as individuals was closeness to one another: this was freedom in action, and it was always possible.

    Everything he wrote is that good. And anyway how do you even write about—what do you say to—a person who is newly dead? When I began this review essay—that is, when John Berger was still alive—I had wanted to write something very stupid about how Portraits felt not just uncanny but creepy. Verso had put out a book that looked and felt like a mummy. And I felt decidedly uncomfortable with the grief a book designed the way Portraits was designed induced in me for a person who had not yet died.

    But then, after his death, scrambling to find in my pages the one story that struck me as most essentially him—I remembered that John Berger was a blessedly creepy man. All his writings touch the subject in one way or another. In a way, it is inevitable that death as much as love would be his great theme. For Berger, life was but the timebound core of a permanent state of death.

    Berger expanded this dialectical structure from the relationship between death and life to the relationship between hope and fear. Hope was generated by comfort with death; fear was generated by the thinness of a life that could think its meaning was to be found in denying mortality. Death was shape and meaning; of course the despairing would seek it; of course it would ennoble them. I gaze at the stones corbeling out. They are the same as millions of other stones on the beaches of this coast, except that here they speak and are eloquent, due to their arrangement.

    Chaos perhaps has its reasons, but chaos is dumb. From the human capacity to arrange, to place, come language and communication. The word place is both verb and noun. The capacity of arrangement and the capacity to recognize and name a site. A strange comparison occurs to me. The actors are fine; Wynn helps make a potentially creepy character sympathetic and charming, and the two women in his life, played by Phyllis Kirk and Mary LaRoche, are well-contrasted against each other.

    She and Wynn play off each other well, and one of the frustrating aspects of the episode for me is that their relationship ends just as it starts to get interesting. West reveals that he created Mrs. But now Mrs. She realizes her mistake too late, and disappears. Keenan Wynn is really the biggest asset here, because if you cast someone even slightly threatening in the same role, the story would become less about a sweetheart of a guy trying to find happiness, and more about a power-mad bastard who gets off on making his own sex slaves. He made up a mistress, and a wife, and, it turns out, the narrator of a fairly popular television program.

    Or he does something else entirely. The A. Share This Story.



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