From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Rose Lemberg, Author Of Geddarien

Rose Lemberg was born on the outskirts of the former Habsburg Empire. She spent many happy years in Berkeley, CA, where she also received her doctorate. Rose is a newly minted professor at a large Midwestern university. She lives in a beautiful modernist house with her toddler, husband, books, and tortoises. In her so-called spare time, Rose writes articles, sleeps, paints, and writes fiction. Her first story was published in the Warrior Wisewoman anthology. Geddarien is her second published story. Her speculative poetry has appeared in Star*line, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Abyss and Apex, and other venues.


Tell me a little about Geddarien. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

A vision of winter in Luriberg. An architect sits by the window. He sketches buildings of frozen water — towers, bulbous monastery roofs; the city is coughing; snowflakes melt into rain as they fall. None of this made it into the story.

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t really get ideas. The world is full of secret noise. Cities talk to me. I have a door in my bathroom that opens to other places. Instead of a heart I have a firebird. When I was little, other children did not want to play with me because I was too strange.

Of your current stories, published or unpublished, which is the most important to you and why?

Each piece is so personal and different that I find it hard to pick one. Geddarien was very emotional for me because of the magic and losses of my grandparents, my family. Of my unpublished stories, The Exile in Wakewood is a high fantasy tale about a mother’s struggle to accept an unwanted child. I’m still hoping to get that one right someday.

What made you decide to include non-English words in your story?

The language is Yiddish. During the Holocaust, Eastern European Jews would either speak Yiddish or use the local vernacular, peppered with Yiddish words. The speech of the characters in the story is organic to the setting. Most Yiddish speakers perished in the Holocaust, but many Jews still remember what it felt like to speak it. It is a warm and loving language that melts on your tongue and makes you want to dance. You can still hear this mix of Yiddish and the vernacular in the speech of many Jewish families today.

Music and musicians are important to Geddarien. Are you a musician, or is music otherwise important in your life?

In Russian I would say, “a bear stepped on my ear.” I have no musical talent whatsoever. My great-grandfather of blessed memory and the generations before him were all musicians, though. When I was little he tried to teach me the fiddle. I never heard him play; he was too old already.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, an incredible modernist novel about a young Jewish boy growing up in the Lower East Side in the 1920s. I often stop to read paragraphs out loud to myself — it is that good. As for nonfiction, Dorrit Cohn’s Transparent Minds is my current obsession; in fact, everything by Dorrit Cohn.

If not yourself, who would you be?

I don’t have to leave my skin to become someone else. That’s what stories are for!

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