Calculated Moves

Magical Realism in the Time of Corona

My short story, Calculated Moves—the second-place winner of the 2021 ‘Moment-Karma’ short fiction contest—has been published in Moment Magazine (founded by Elie Wiesel in 1975), both in print and online. The story, “Calculated Moves,” is a timely exploration of aging, COVID, memory and loss

But first, below is what the contest’s final judge, the author Susan Coll, wrote about the story, and then my reflections on her verdict.

“Calculated Moves is the poignant, affecting story of aging in the time of COVID. The protagonist, an elderly occupant of a Jewish retirement center, believes he has become part tree. Resentful of his son and daughter-in-law for forcing him to move into this new living arrangement after observing his forgetfulness, as well as a recent fall, the narrator considers his new home an asylum, self-identifying as an inmate rather than a resident. His struggles with the onset of dementia blend lyrically into the realm of magical realism, creating a moving and memorable story.”

Naturally, I’m inclined to agree. I particularly like, and would explore here a little, the definition of ‘magical realism’ in the context of this story. Because ultimately, that’s what I’ve tried to do: inject some magic into the dreadful reality of the coronavirus pandemic we were—still are, to a degree—facing. Especially at the onset of this plague, it was so, before we had vaccinations and some norm of control over the spread of the disease. Indeed, it had turned our lives upside down in the most ruthless, unexpected ways. And that, in part, is what I’ve tried to convey in this story.

I’m a great admirer of the late, Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, specifically his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, both of which I’ve read twice, in Hebrew and in English. And so, it’s a great honor and compliment for me to be attributed this praise, ‘Magical Realism,’ in the context of my short story. After all, it’s a definition and an art form that Márquez is widely regarded as the modern inventor of.

Throughout the process of writing, Love in the Time of Cholera was on my mind in particular, and for obvious reasons. Even those of you who haven’t read this magnificent novel yet can infer from its title the said connection. And so, whether as a young man you are consumed madly by love, or as an old man you are eaten away by regrets, depression, and the onset of dementia, the horror and seclusion of a global pandemic manage to highlight and heightened your ailments.

And yet… one has to find a way to keep going. To keep the struggle to the end. To not only stay the course, stay alive, but maybe find some extra meaning still, some pure magic in the heavy burden of reality. And in your own life, too. Which is what—without giving too much of the story details away here, since I hope you’ll read it, and would certainly like to hear your thought about it—I tried to do both in my life in the time of corona, and in the life of the hero of this story.


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