Page 112 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
those around her. On the other hand, the Rabbi, for all his offi­
cial Jewishness, manifests little life affirmation, little compassion.
His father’s weakness and betrayal form the stuff with which
the son Bruno struggles in the second story, “After All and Many
Years.” The narrator, now a grown man living in Jerusalem , has
returned for a visit to his home town in Austria. Ostensibly, he
comes back to Austria to receive belated recognition for his fa­
the r’s work. What emerges is a journey into memories and feel­
ings which have been suppressed.
The war and adulthood have destroyed the child’s innocence.
Bruno himself has had a marriage where the same alienation, the
same lack of communication developed as had existed in his par­
ents’ relationship. Implicit in the second novelette are the com­
parisons between “before” and “after,” between father and son.
The second novelette also begins with a train ride. Here Bruno
encounters a markedly Orthodox, self-debasing Jew whose pres­
ence embarrasses and repulses him. The native town to which he
returns is the world after the Fall, a lurid world o f pathetic
showgirls, grotesque midgets, fat Austrians; Juden re in , it is a dull
place. He meets few people he knows. But it is the confrontation
with the crazy old man Brom that helps Bruno come to a resolu­
tion of his feelings. Brom was a friend o f his father, an old bache­
lor who married his housemaid and converted to Christianity. In
his conversion, his complete denial o f his former identity and the
transformation of his personality, Brom is closely identified with
his father in Bruno’s mind. He appears in conjunction with
Bruno’s awakened memories of his father, memories laden with
hate and shame.
Bruno lingers on in the town. It is not clear why. Perhaps he
awaits another deportation, to re-live banishment. He dreams
that he wants to get away from Brom but his body has become
rooted. Ultimately, he has a confrontation with Brom which is ca­
thartic and allows him to leave. “You have stayed too long. . . .
You are spreading ill will,” Brom tells him, the words resounding
with horrific associations to the past. Bruno knocks him down. All
Bruno’s suppressed rage surfaces — rage at Brom and Austria
and the anti-Semitism that ravaged the lives o f survivors like him­
self. He hits out at Jewish self-hate, atoning for his fa ther’s weak­
ness. Bruno can now leave the town and set his face to Jerusalem
to renew his life there.