Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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p ic e h an d l e r
— I
sr a e l i
o v e l ist s
3 9
him; their ideals have been debased into propaganda slogans
fostered by Israel’s new, native-born upper class. In Paris he
tries to forget his pre-war idealism in a bathos of self-pitying
drunkenness and debauchery. In one of his many dreadfully talky
confessional perorations—so typical of the modern picaresque
saint—he confides to his mistress: “1 come from a world in which
things inconceivable to you did happen, things which your
Europe would attribute to madmen or at least to adolescents;
but there a whole generation was raised on them. A t the close
o f a June day, a man walked down an asphalt highway which had
melted under the heat of his country’s sun. There were many
who walked like him along the same road . . . veterans returning
from their nation ’s war of independence. . . . Everybody was
beautiful that day, having a beauty which one experiences once
in a lifetime. They talked about their great deeds for the libera­
tion of their country whose sun was so white and flaming. But
the man did not stop to talk to anyone. He was in too great a
hurry. He was rushing to the girl he loved. In his pocket he had
th irty coins of this new country of his and a discharge book which
attested that he had fu lfilled his obligations to his country and
that he was now free.
“But the words of the people on the road that reached his
ears said: Yes, the war is over but now we are called upon to
build and rebuild. Called upon. A l l his life he had been called
upon and whenever called he rallied. Now, too, he wanted to
respond. A l l his life he was told that he was his nation, that
w ithout him nothing would be created in his country. Now, too,
he walked w ith seeking eyes and eager ears.
“Before him loomed a large and beautiful city of white. . . . He
saw houses that only a moment ago had been hatched out of the
yellow sands that abounded in his country-houses spreading like
a gigantic army, covering every choice lot, crushing the dry or­
chards under their weight, pushing away the dust-dulled cypresses.
He saw scaffolds and grotesque concrete mixers. He saw gray­
faced, gray-chested laborers wearing torn, black undershirts. . . .
“He walked along with his hands in his pockets, whistling a
soldier’s song, and the melody resounded in his ear. I ’ll show you,
my lads. I ’ve just been born. Now I ’ll begin doing things. Fires
w ill burn, the earth w ill ree l.”
Evelyn, his English-born mistress, remarks: “A wonderful fairy
tale or perhaps only a dream. Your man was a child.”
And Moshe cries: “It was a lie, a contrived fairy tale from,
beginning to end
Moshe’s disillusionment with his ideals—at least as Bartov sees
it—grows out of the fa ilure of voluntarism. The state by its very
nature surrendered to the practical men, the careerists who dis­
trusted ideals and dreams. This was the result of an inevitable