Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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knows from a previous “flash-forward” that a second later
Yehuda Kaminka is murdered by the pitchfork-wielding Musa.
Less immediately apparent, however, is the fact that “hidden” in
this passage, as in a children’s puzzle where one is asked to iden­
tify faces or objects that are concealed in a cunningly drawn
landscape, are over a dozen symbolic references. With their aid,
let us read the scene through again for its latent, symbolic con­
As Yehuda Kaminka walks to the door of the hospital ward, he
spies the giant Musa outside.1But he does not realize the danger
in store for him, for he is concerned rather with eluding his son
Asi, a university historian,2 who is trying to turn on the light.3
Kaminka, thinking on the one hand of Asi and his theories, and
on the other of his own divorce and imminent return to a life of
freedom in America, tells himself that he will not be trapped by
“history as closure,” for there is “a way out.”4 To avoid detection
he has put on his wife’s dress,5and when his son calls out “Father”
he does not answer.6
At this point Kaminka has a premonition of his impending
doom, yet a sense of fatalism comes over him, since there is noth­
ing he can do; he is what he is.7And besides, he has his airplane
tickets and plenty of time before his airplane flight.8 He has fi­
nancial security too, for although he is leaving Israel forever, he
1 Musa is a kind of male shadow to Naomi in the novel — in fact, he devotedly
follows her around the hospital grounds all the time — and the pitchfork with
which he kills Yehuda, an implement used to turn the earth, is the instrument
of her vengeance.
2 That is, he is trying to elude the consequences of history itself, both his own
and the Jewish people’s.
3 Asi is always groping for the light, for he is a strict determinist who believes in
the absolute inevitability o f the future, which is the inescapable product o f the
past and can even be predicted if the past is understood properly.
4 But of course there is no way out: the cycle of psychic violence in which the past
is enmeshed must continue, resulting in his real and symbolic death.
5 As it loses its repressive control over the feminine “anima,” the masculine self
becomes feminized itself — which cannot, however, save it from destruction.
6 The Father-God of Jewish history has fallen silent.
7 “I am that I am” is
ehyeh asher ehyeh
in the Hebrew — Jehovah’s very words to
Moses in the scene o f His revelation in the burning bush and so uncolloquial a
phrase in modern Hebrew that Yehoshua is obviously using it here for its
Yahwistic associaton.
8 Throughout the novel Kaminka has been systematically linked with images of
Time and Sky, just as his wife has been identified with Space and Earth.