I met Moshe Triwaks in Jerusalem in 2000.
I was in Israel to visit my daughter who was in Israel for a semester-long high school program. Moshe Triwaks’s company, Matar, had just published the Israeli translation of my first novel, The Red Tent, and when he heard I was in the country, he drove from Tel Aviv to say hello.
We met in the lobby of our hotel. He was a handsome, silver-haired gentleman, very well dressed. (I’m not positive, but I believe there might have been a pocket square.) His British-inflected English was impeccable.He was one of the most charming men I’ve ever met.
I have only a few memories of that conversation. He said he thought the book would do well in Israel but I don’t think we talked business beyond that. The rest of our conversation was personal. He asked about my family.
My daughter’s stay in Israel coincided with the first intifada, and Moshe asked why I had agreed to let her come. Plenty of Americans had asked me that question – always in tones of disbelief and disapproval. Moshe was the only Israeli who asked. I told him my husband and I had been reassured, in great detail, about security measures. He nodded.
The last time I saw Moshe was entirely by chance. In 2014, I was visiting my publishers, Scribner/Simon & Schuster, in Manhattan and someone mentioned that he was in the building. It was a fond reunion that felt like a gift. He said he was going to publish The Boston Girl, which was wonderful news but not a surprise.
I had been mystified when I learned he was going to publish my third novel, The Last Days of Dogtown. That book is set in rural Massachusetts in the mid 1800s, with a cast of eccentric Yankee characters. It is the only one of my books with no Jewish content at all. None. Zero. Bupkis.
It was my understanding that publishers only go to the expense and trouble of translating and promoting books by “foreign” authors if they believe they can recoup their investment. I couldn’t imagine there would be much of an audience for Dogtown. I said as much to him and asked why he was publishing it.
He smiled and, as though it were self-evident, said, “You are one of our authors.”
Dear reader, that is an answer from another century, from another world, from a time when publishers, editors and writers had relationships that lasted for decades, for entire careers, for lifetimes. Where imprints were identified by “their” writers, and writers were associated with “their” publishers and editors.
Each of my novels has been translated and published abroad. But only in Israel is that true for all five of them. That is because I was one of Moshe Triwaks’s authors, a distinction I treasure.
He passed away on April 30. I will always remember him with affection and gratitude and affection, and count myself blessed for having known him.