As part of the Rolex Arts Initiative selection process, potential protégés are invited to submit samples of their work, which show the range of their skills and talent. Below is an excerpt from Naomi Alderman's first novel Disobedience.
Rebbetson Goldfarb, the Rabbi's wife, took tiny bites of cake, and made appreciative noises.
She said: “This is wonderful, Fruma. Wonderful. You must give me the recipe.”
Fruma’s mouth drooped.
“Yes,” she said, “yes but I can't give you the recipe on the Sabbath, of course.”
She was sallow. I smirked. I wanted to lean over and whisper “you didn’t make this cake at all, did you, Fruma?” but Rebbetson Goldfarb was already posing another question, so sweetly it felt impossible not to respond.
She said: “So, Ronit, any young men in your life?”
She asked with that tender smile on her face, the one that older people always use when they want to let you know it’s time to get married.
Now here’s a thing. I wanted to tell her what she wanted to hear. I really did. At that moment, after such a pleasant evening’s conversation, I wanted to be able to say: oh yes, a doctor. Is he Jewish? Why, certainly. We’re getting married next year. We’ll live in Manhattan. I could see how delightfully the conversation would proceed from that point, how we’d talk about wedding plans and about the future. I found myself longing for that conversation with all my heart.
I wanted to say that, and I saw myself wanting it and I hated the part of myself that wanted that to be true. I heard a screaming creak from far away and I found myself thinking of a lock and an old rusted key resting heavy in my palm. This is all the explanation I can offer because, honestly, which of us really understands why we do the things we do?
I said: “Actually, Rebbetson Goldfarb, I’m a lesbian. I live with my partner in New York. Her name is Miriam. She’s a graphic artist.”
It’s not true. It’s never been true. There was a Miriam, a long time ago, but we never lived together. And the graphic artist was another woman entirely. And, let’s face it, currently I’m sleeping with a married man, so I could have said that and shocked them just as much. Or maybe not.
Published in 2006 by Touchstone