ESHKOL NEVO’S NEW NOVEL takes place in an apartment building just outside of Tel Aviv, where the characters who live on the first three floors know little of the dramas just on the other side of their walls.
These are not the neighbours in Grace Paley’s urban stories who share their lives on the front stoop. These folks sometimes cross paths, and they occasionally muse about the others’ lives, but they barely make it into each other’s stories, as Nevo tells them in Three Floors Up (Other Press).
In English, we also refer to the levels in apartment buildings as stories, and this novel is very much about storytelling, and the connection between identity, memory and stories. The characters need others to listen to their stories and grant them a kind of truth. As a dream uninterpreted is like a letter unopened (as in the rabbinic saying), so too is a story unheard.
The three stories are told as confessions; the first in an urgent conversation with an old friend, now a writer, in a restaurant; the second in a rambling letter to an old friend now in the US; and the third in short clips to an answering machine.
The woman on the third floor is a widow who unexpectedly found an old answering machine with her husband’s voice, and she looks back at their life together and then explains how she is trying to stand on her own. For each of the storytellers, their listener, or anchor, is from a past he or she is no longer living.
FULL STORY In one apartment building, listening for stories (Times of Israel)