Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
SELF-DENIAL
Akin to the “perversion” o f the Holocaust is what may be called
the “rejection” o f the Holocaust in literature . Anne Roiphe won
popu la r recognition with h e r novel,
Up The Sandbox
(1970), a story
about a liberated young m o the r struggling to save h e r soul while
raising h e r children on M anha ttan ’s up p e r West Side. She fol­
lowed this with ano ther well-written novel called
Long Division
(1972), the ‘story o f ano th e r New York mo ther , this time one
going th rough divorce. Emily B rinberg loads he rse lf and h e r
young daugh te r , Sarah, into a station wagon and sets o ff on a
cross-country tr ip to use the time and diversion o ffered by such a
drive to work ou t in h e r own m ind h e r persona l problems. We
grasp, o f course, the double meaning o f the title Roiphe chose,
Long Division,
literally and figuratively separa tion via a long
cross-country trip.
T he novel reaches its climax as Emily nears Mexico, where h e r
divorce is to be effected, struggling to unders tand the very serious
crisis she has reached in h er life. This young Jewish woman comes
to the conclusion tha t one o f the main reasons fo r h e r inability to
function properly as a human-be ing is the fact tha t she is filled
with guilt over the Holocaust. She determ ines, the re fo re , tha t the
way to save herse lf and h e r daugh te r is to deny h e r past, to get ou t
o f h e r Jewishness. Emily B rinberg remembers h e r study o f Jewish
history:
A no ther pogrom, the diaspora, an exile, a genocide a t­
tempt, and on the bulletin board in the tiny room where we
all sat crammed toge ther in the basement hung Life maga­
zine pho tographs o f the liberation o f Auschwitz and Dachau
. . . Weep for centuries o f pain, none o f them your choosing
. . . the Cossacks, the Tu rks , the Romans, the Germans, the
Gentiles come and pulverize you and yours while your men
with long shawls kiss the hem o f God’s though ts (pp. 57-58).
She envies people who seem to belong naturally to the ir culture:
Middle Americans, Gold-Star mothers, descendan ts o f an early
pioneer woman, “making a new country . . . sp read ing the civili­
zation . . . I was jealous . . . a wandering Jewess, covering the
globe, belonging only periphera lly to one cu ltu re o r ano ther , a
g randm o ther who collected china knowing alien boots could and
would smash it to bits a week, a century la ter” (pp. 71-72). T hu s
plagued, “Why be p roud o f being the victim? T h e roasted goat