Page 58 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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52
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
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 —
qua
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
himself
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
qua
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.
SOME GUIDELINES
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,
March
26, 1982.