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Dara Horn began her talk at Open Book Bookstore about her new novel, Eternal Life, by mentioning the comedian Mel Brooks. “You know the 2000-year-old man, right?” she asked.  The audience nodded. “Well, this book is about the 2000-year-old mom.” 

Despite Horn’s jokes about her long-living character Rachel (“imagine all those diapers to change!”), her book is, at heart, a serious exploration of the nature of time. “American culture thinks only new things matter and the past is irrelevant,” says Horn. She is deeply interested in history and the passage of time, particularly as seen through the lens of Jewish studies. “Judaism is based on deep historical consciousness,” she explains. “The past reverberates through the present.” 

Horn explains that her real subject as a writer, and the thread that runs through her now five award-winning novels, is her obsession with time, and with the idea that days disappear. She says that recording things that happened is what has always motivated her as a writer, and even in journal-writing she wants to do what she can to save the past. “What can I do to preserve this moment that happened?” she asks herself. She is not especially concerned with events in her own life but is more interested in what happens around her. She reiterates that her concept of time is consistent with Jewish belief. “Judaism doesn’t see time as linear,” she says. “The past is always now. You stood at Sinai. We have all these vanished days within us.” 

Dara Horn

Her main characters in Eternal Life, Rachel and Elazar (again, Horn jokes about him as “the bad boyfriend who never goes away”), live endless lifetimes, century after century, going back to ancient Jerusalem and the time when the Temple was standing through to contemporary New York and the era of bitcoin and blockchains. Horn weaves past and present together into a fascinating story. This is how life works, she says. “We give our children a past to build a future on.” 

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