Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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a chain of discoveries moving from Quentin’s startling discovery
at the death of his mother. The women in whom he placed inordi-
nate trust and a naive sense of permanence betray him as he
betrays them. In turn, he faces further betrayals in the loss of
friends. In seeking to replenish the vacuum, he fills it with tempo-
rary associations. Only Holga—a woman who represents the guilt
of his life—and the reflecting glass of his possibilities appears to
have a possibly permanent place in his future. It is she who urges
him to the beginnings of judgment; one victim-judge urging an-
other to view with clarity and assume with grace the responsibility
of surviving on a heap of skulls. T o be a Jew, as Quentin obviously
is, is to be solely victim. To survive is to disassociate himself from
an ethnic or religious identity, to incorporate within himself the
murdered and the murderers. “My brothers died . . . but my
brothers built this place,” he states. In his final trial, his relation-
ship with Maggie, he realizes more than ever that one cannot
punish the killer in the soul which resides in perfect intimacy with
the victim. “I loved them all! And gave them willingly to failure
and to death that I might live, as they gave me and gave each
other, with a word, a look, a truth, a lie—and all in love.” In this
terrible knowledge the concentration camp tower, the symbol of
his discovery, lights and, as Miller describes it, “he moves toward
it as toward a terrible god.”
Incident at Vichy
followed
After the Fall
in 1964 and carried
forward the enormous problem Miller confronted in the earlier
play: man’s zealous affirmation of his need for survival.
The play is based on an incident told to Miller regarding a
Gentile who willingly gave his passport to freedom to a Jew certain
to be killed. The play opens in police headquarters in Vichy, a
group which has been gathered up in the streets and herded into
the station is at first glance fairly amorphous: several Jews, a Gen-
tile nobleman, a gypsy. Von Berg, the nobleman arrested in error,
undergoes a vast transformation in the course of the play. Initially,
he reviles Nazism merely for its decadence, its vulgarity. His asso-
ciation with and knowledge of the Jews is superficial, at best,
neatly categorized along with the other facts of his life. As the play
progresses, he comes to recognize the implicit irony of being
arrested as a Jew by discovering his kinship with the victims—a
double irony since the Nazis have not after all really mistaken their
prisoner. The victims meanwhile scurry to disguise their fear. “The
important thing is not to look like a victim. Or even feel like
one,” says one Jew. Monceau, the actor, replies with Miller’s
essential point of view, “one must create one’s own reality in this
world.”
This is, after all, a play concerning identity. The Jews desper-
ately shield their Jewishness. The Nazis conducting a vigorous
B
erger
— T
h e
J
ews
in
R
ec ent
A
m er ican
D
ram a
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