Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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38
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
rectangular shawl of dark-blue wool fringed with colored
tassels. What seemed strangest to me were two narrow straps
which he had tied round the left arm and across the fore­
head. From each strap dangled a small box.
In the ensuing, most poignantly-written passage Schalliick
shows how the trauma of his wife’s death had made Lehm­
koster seek escape from reality by withdrawing from all human
contacts and assuming a fictitious Jewish identity.
A fictitious Jew living on as mute witness to bygone horrors
in the era of post-war amnesia and the economic miracle—such
is the role of the awesome figure of Lehmkoster; Woizele in
Martin Walser’s
The Rabbit Race
is an analogous survival, but
this pathetic residue of what was once a human being differs
from Lehmkoster in two important respects. Whereas Lehm­
koster is an assumed Jew, Woizele is an archetypally authentic
one—hunted, bewildered, rootless; the grief that has driven
Lehmkoster in on himself makes Woizele wander ceaselessly
among strangers and inquire after the whereabouts of his three
lost sons.
When
The Rabbit Race
was first performed in Berlin the
heart-rending spectacle of the feeble-minded Woizele’s persistent
delusion that his sons were still alive proved too much for the
nerves of the audience and Walser in consequence had to tone
down the most harrowing sequences in his play.
This particular incident brings me to the most crucial—and
controversial—aspect of my theme: the question of the degree
to which the impact of the literature of remorse can be nullified
by audience-reactions of embarrassment, indifference or down­
right hostility. This is a problem going to the very root of the
foundations of post-war Germany; the reading and theatre-going
public’s response to the literature of remorse is a not-to-be-
underestimated indicator of the viability of German democracy.
In this connection the impressive number of performances of
The Representative
and
Andorra
in West German theatres can
be accounted an encouraging sign—but the fact that the An­
dorran doctor’s unrepentant self-justification occasionally drew
applause from audiences carries a warning which should not be
overlooked.
The problem confronting authors and playwrights is of the
greatest complexity; how can the readers (or the audience) be
made to accept moral strictures which in many cases are only
thinly disguised indictments of their own past conduct?
One of the most obvious ways in which this obstacle can
be circumvented is by the conscious linking of Jewish martyr­