Page 42 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
are meticulously presented by an author too young to have ex­
perienced the first or witnessed the second. The genre o f Anya
is unmistakably that o f the realistic novel, the form least suited
to the depiction of the Holocaust, as i f its author wished to
remind us that in the realm of the literary imagination, as in
Jewish history, an accumulation o f probabilities is not the same
as a certainty.
BLOOD FROM THE SKY
The intractability of the Holocaust as a subject o f novels has
itself become the subject of only one major work of fiction by a
Jewish writer, Piotr Rawicz’s Blood from the Sky, published in
French in 1961. No other novel so consistently deplores the
imaginative paralysis caused by this crime of unprecedented mag­
nitude against the Jewish people and the human status itself.
“One by one,” says its narrator, “words . . . w ilt and grow too
weak to bear a meaning. And then they fall away, like dead
scales.” One “novel” within this novel is the diary o f a madman
whose idea of “constructive action” in modern literature is to
“spit on everything.” Another is by a Nazi whose sole subject
is a cockroach killing cockroaches. These and other examples
lend support to the view that “man never so much resembles
an insect as when he engages in the activity of writing.” Yet
finally the novel belies the very paralysis which i t deplores and
its author embraces “the vocation to be witness, the only one
that matters.” Rawicz’s novel gains its special power from the
author’s ability to demonstrate that “the fate and condition of
the Jewish people are the very essence of the human condition,”
even as he places himself firmly within the Jewish tradition which
pleads on behalf of His people against the God who has chosen
them. Blood from the Sky is therefore the exception which most
effectively proves, that is to say tests, the ru le that the Holocaust
cannot be assimilated by the novelistic imagination.