Page 121 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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KOFMAN / PORTRAIT OF THE ISRAELI AS AN UPROOTED PERSON
113
ru t o f his marriage. “Fourteen years,” we are told, “uncle Peretz
devoted to the redemption of the world but the world persisted in
its corruption .” On a personal level, the girl with whom Peretz is
involved in a love affair is named Geulah, which in Hebrew
means redemption. Geulah beseeches him to go away with her
but he cannot bring himself to take the step and she leaves by her­
self. Peretz’ reluctance to go may be taken as a general refusal —
shared by other similar characters in the stories — to let a dream
be reduced to mundane reality.
Death is also the way in which the story about uncle Shmuel
ends, and here, too, it seems as the inevitable solution for the vi­
sionary who is faced with the realization of his dream. All his life
Shmuel was given to trying out his various inventions, going from
one enterprise to another, moving from place to place, and all the
while dreaming about the perfect house he would build for him­
self. It seems as if “all the time the house was under construction.”
Some time after the house was finished Shmuel died. Portraying
Shmuel as “a party o f one man” from the political standpoint, and
placing him and his wife at the “far end of the village,” help to
draw the picture of an alienated man.
O f these three dreamers only uncle Pinnek appears to have
survived. But even he considers suicide when his dream about a
circus in Israel ends in failure. What saves Pinnek from dying
seems to be, on the one hand, his u tter refusal to abide by the
rules of the real world and his holding on to magic, and on the
other, his lack of decency. He resorts to cheating and money ex­
tortion and promises o f marriage to two women at a time when
he already has a wife and family. Pinnek is a portrait o f an up ­
rooted scoundrel with a certain charm who does not find it too
difficult to forsake both his wife and Israel and steal away to
Monaco.
In Shabtai’s novel,
Zikhron Devarim
(Past Continuous, 1977),
there are no more glimpses of mitigating nostalgia. The book is
fraught with death and peopled with uprooted characters. It is
written in one flowing sweep, as a single un interrupted and quite
complicated sentence. The form itself seems as though crying out
for continuity, mixing together the different lives, incidents,
characters, thoughts, conversations, etc. But this continuity is
only an “artistic” device, a thin crust imposed upon abysmal dis­
ruption and endless disintegration. Stark alienation and the reali­
zation that death is inevitable drive the chief three protagonists to