Our newest installment of “Attributes” comes from Hila Shachar, a freelance writer and the woman behind Le Projet D’Amour. I always gobble up Hila’s work, whether it be poetry, film critiques, or just general observations on art and culture. Hila has a new book coming out in August on the cultural extensions of classic literature, which I am equally eager to read. I’m thrilled that Hila has agreed to share her portrait-on-objects with us, and she describes her cherished mementos with her usual thoughtful, articulate prose. Thank you so much for sharing, Hila!
Artefacts: My grandfather is a historian. A while ago, he gave my brother and I some tokens from an archaeological dig in Israel. Not only do I find it amazing to hold objects in my hand that were held by people so long ago, but I also think they represent my grandfather’s ability to make history significant in my life. He was the first person to instill in me a sense of history’s relevance in the present.
Graduation ticket: When I got home from my PhD graduation ceremony, I went to place my ticket and program in a box where I keep mementos. The whole night felt extremely surreal to me. But when I found my other graduation ticket for my bachelor of arts degree, I remembered the way I felt in my previous graduation ceremony, when I had just started my PhD. I find it strange to look at my PhD certificate, almost as if it isn’t real. But looking at my undergraduate graduation ticket grounds me, because it takes me back to that moment when I was on the brink of it all.
Old family photos: I get really attached to photos and these are some of my favorites of my mother, my father, and my grandfather. But there is one photo here that tellingly lacks a human presence. It’s a simple photo of flowers on the table, taken on a Shabbat dinner in my grandfather’s kibbutz. Behind the flowers, there’s a portrait of his brother, who was killed. This gaping absence in my grandfather’s life represents to me his own absence in mine, and how much I miss him.
Train tickets: I love to collect train tickets. Sometimes they are more evocative than postcards, because the perfect postcard images don’t really speak of my real experiences when traveling, while a train ticket can take me back to a moment, a feeling, or a thought.
Turkish coffee: I can recall some of the most important moments of my life through coffee. I also suspect that without it, my book would never have gotten finished. My favorite type is Turkish coffee, which in my family, is “cooked” over the stove and drunk in small shots with a heap of sugar. Strong and sweet is how we like it.
Interview tape: This tape is a recording of the first interview I conducted with a Holocaust survivor. I’ll never forget it, as it fundamentally changed how I view the world and my place within it. I can still vividly remember the dizzy feeling I had after it was over, standing in the interviewee’s kitchen while he offered me some hot chocolate. This ordinary question seemed so moving after I had just seen this man weep like a child.