Page 118 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

Basic HTML Version

110
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
the “family historian” he explores the family’s past du ring four
generations, including the turbulent times o f Nazi Germany.
The story revolves around the family’s reunion in Germany after
the Yom Kippur War. O f all the family members who have been
scattered over d iffe ren t continents only Emmanuel and his
bro ther Michael end up in Israel. However, both brothers re ­
main totally alienated. Emmanuel does not succeed in linking the
past with the present, and Michael, who resolves to live in the
present and to acclimate to Israel, is also destined to fail.
Tammuz’ novel,
Minotaur
(1980; English translation, 1981),
tells o f the unsuccessful endeavors to bring about a fusion o f the
different cultures in the Middle East. A fusion between Jewish
and Arabic cultures was according to Canaanite ideology, a ne­
cessity for the continuation o f Israeli existence. As the critic Yosef
Oren has pointed out,
Minotaur
exposes the evolving culture in
Israel as Levantine, one which has little in common with either
Judaism or the authentic culture o f the Semitic East. Alexander
Abramov, the novel’s main protagonist, was born in Israel to a
Jewish father who came from the Ukraine, and a German Chris­
tian mother. It seems that he is meant to represent a fusion of
cultures. His portrayal as an essentially uprooted character who
remains on the margins o f society and suffers many inner
conflicts, combined with his self-destructive nature, serve to sym­
bolize the failure of such a fusion. Ambivalence, the mark of
many an uprooted protagonist, is the key to Alexander’s charac­
ter. He loves Israel but spends most o f his time abroad; he has a
wife but chases a love personified by a girl named Thea. He is also
torn apart between his role as an interrogator o f Arab prisoners
on behalf o f the Israeli intelligence, and his initial attraction to­
wards the Arabs. In an essay on Tammuz, Isaac Barzilay com­
ments on the long road this au thor travelled in turning from a
Canaanite into a cosmopolite. He calls attention to the fact that
landscapes of Jerusalem and Israel have been replaced with those
o f Paris, Rome, London and other such capitals o f Europe.
Barzilay concludes that the “gypsy”-type Israeli protagonists who
roam abroad are driven by an irresistible passion to wander; all
the world houses them but in no place are they really at home.
The theme o f the restless Israeli who travels “gypsy”-like back
and forth appears also in Arie Semo’s novel
Neshef Masekhot
(Masquerade, 1982). Whatever happens here (which does not
amount to much) seems to be sandwiched between two flights;