The Schmooze

Author Blog: Places Never Seen

Earlier this week, Jay Neugeboren wrote about the title story of his third collection and the art of silence. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


My most recently published novel, “The Other Side of the World,” contains a 100-page novel-within-the-novel set entirely in Singapore and Borneo. The book appeared in early December, and since then readers and interviewers keep asking an obvious question: Have you ever been to Singapore and/or Borneo?

The answer: No …

And the response to this answer is often bewilderment, as in: How can you write about a place you’ve never seen or been to? To this point no one, including friends and reviewers who have been to Singapore and Borneo, has questioned the credibility of the Singapore and Borneo I’ve conjured up. But why should people believe that a fiction writer has to go to a place in order to write about it? An earlier novel of mine, “The Stolen Jew” (1981), begins in Israel, on a beach in Herzlia, and I wrote this novel before I’d ever been to Israel. The Stolen Jew also contains several sections set in the Soviet Union, both in time-present (about smuggling out a Jewish dissident), and in the19th century (about a Jewish boy kidnapped to take the place of another Jewish boy for 25 year service in the Tsar’s army — the dreaded cantonist gzeyra).

I had never been to the Soviet Union.

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Author Blog: Places Never Seen

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