Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
streng th to carry himself, the portage o f A.H. becomes the
portage o f his captors. T he m irro r is playing tricks. I f the portage
is no portage, if San Cristobal is never reached , is it no t possible
tha t A.H. is not Hitler? A British historian in the novel conjec­
tu res tha t the man found in the jung le is no t H itler bu t a double, a
Doppelganger,
a mere represen tation o f the real Hitler.
Readers o f novels often attem p t to identify the real-life people
implied by fictional characters. This “game” attests to the wide­
spread acceptance o f the novel as a rep resen ta tion o f reality. I t is
instructive to play the game with Steiner’s book too. For example,
the British historian Sir Evelyn Ryder, in the novel, is a
fictionalization o f the real-life historian H.R. T revo r-Roper
whose book
The Last Days of Hitler4
was designed to pu t to rest all
rum o rs o f H itler’s survival. Emmanuel Lieber resembles the
famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. G ideon Benasseraf is the
intellectual among the Nazi hun ters; a strong case might be made
to show that he is an incarnation o f George Steiner himself.5
Interestingly enough , the most obvious key in this
roman a clef
— tha t A.H. represen ts Adolf H itler — is a key tha t simply does
not fit. Certainly the A.H. found in the jung le in 1979 is no t the
H itler o f 1945. Such a read ing might tend to explain the fact tha t
only the initials A .H .6are used. Especially in his tirade, the image
given o f Hitler is a distorted one. T he last words o f A.H., in the
play, are “These are my last words.” T he historical H itler also left
some last words, dictated in the F uh re rbunke r before his suicide.
H itler says: “Above all, I enjoin the leaders o f the nation and those
u n d e r them to upho ld the racial laws to the ir full ex ten t and to
oppose mercilessly the universal poisoner o f all peoples, in te rn a ­
tional Jewry.”7 Now, would the H itler who u tte red such an obvi­
ously hateful statement have said the things tha t S teiner’s A.H.
says? Would that H itler have adm itted tha t he took any idea from
4 New York: The Macmillan Company, 1946.
5 In Chapter 7 o f the novel, Gideon imagines himself the author (in the past) of
a book entitled
Le Silence et lepoete.
He also sees, in his mind’s eye, the favorable
review of the book in
Le Monde.
Might this fictional book not be a mirror o f
Steiner’s
Language and Silence
?
6 Another use of the initials A.H. in relation to Hitler ca be found in Ernst Weiss,
The Eyewitness
, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977. This book traces the roots of
Hitler’s madness.
7 Quoted by John Toland,
Adolf Hitler,
New York: Doubleday, 1976, pp.
884-885.