Page 58 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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Rabbenu, Rabbi Jesus and Rabbi Marx have been blackmailing
the world with the ir impossible ideals. Certainly no one who has
read the speech in Deuteronomy in which Moses asserts tha t the
laws o f J udaism are ne ither in Heaven no r across the seas, bu t are
within the grasp o f ord inary human beings would fail to see tha t
Juda ism is a religion for ordinary people. I f indeed Jesus and
Marx do demand o f humank ind more than hum ank ind is able to
give, then no Jew —
Jew — would want to take credit either
for Jesus o r Marx.
T he irony is tha t Steiner the essayist, the philosopher, the
theologian, places
in the lineage o f Jesus and Marx. For
Steiner asks, o f hum ank ind in general and o f the Jew in
particular, more than either is capable o f giving. For example,
the re is a Steiner who in an interview with critic David Nathan
defines a Jew as “perhaps a man who loves tru th even beyond su r­
vival.” T h e re is a Steiner who states, obscenely in my view, tha t a
Jew is someone who would correct a p r in ting e r ro r on the way to
the camps. Then there is the Steiner who “loathes nationalism
above everything,” who professes to loathe even the idea o f
nations. More precisely, what this Steiner does is to set up a situa­
tion in which he will be the guest o f o the r nations while avoiding
the responsibility o f being a host. “I am a guest o f o the r men ,” he
asserts. “My homeland is where I am allowed to work. I am at
home wherever you give me a table and a typewriter.”10 Would
any Jew
Jew want to take credit for Rabbi Steiner?
Would a Jew, or for tha t matter any serious reade r o f literature ,
want to associate himself with novelist Steiner?
The Portage to San
Cristobal of A.H.
is a piece o f literature so powerful that it canno t
be ignored. It compels attention by its very structure. It must be
remembered tha t for all the wind-blown theology tha t may be
read into it, the novel is still a powerful work o f fiction, an evoca­
tive creation o f the imagination. Several newspaper critics have
called the story o f the cap tu re o f Adolf H itler a fantasy. And they
were not wrong.
A few terms from the world o f academic literary criticism might
help to pinpoint the place this novel should have in ou r own
10 From an interview conducted by David Nathan in
TheJewish Chronicle,
26, 1982.