Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
PETER QUATS IDENTITY
Who is this Peter Quat who occupies so much space in
Inside,
Outside
? The question “Who is Peter Quat?” is related to another
question: “How do names mean?” The title o f Wouk’s novel,
Inside, Outside,
is significantly different from the title of his char­
acter’s memoir,
April House.
Most reviewers have seen the novel’s
title as an opposition between the world of the Jew and the world
of the Gentile. Wouk himself has preferred to talk about the
inside as the Jewish family, the
mishpokhe.
All that is not “family” is
on the outside, even if it isJewish. Stated another way — a literary
way — the “inside” describes a microcosm, the drama of personal
anecdote; the “outside” paints the portrait of the macrocosm, the
stage of world history. Nixon’s dilemma and the ordeal unde r­
gone by the State of Israel during the Yom Kippur War are mac-
rocosmic events. Israel David’s Bar Mitzvah, on the other hand, is
a microcosmic happening. Goodkind is able to have an effect on
the larger events in the place where the inside and the outside
meet. His story is thus reminiscent of the story of Mordechai and
Esther, itself an “inside, outside” narrative.
What of the name “Goodkind,” whose “correct” pronunciation
with a long
i
Wouk goes out of his way to provide? O f course,
Goodkind is not so much “good” and “kind” as he is a “
guter kind
,”
a good child.
And Peter Quat, finally, who is he? It all depends on the pro­
nunciation of
his
name. In French, it would be “
quatre
,” four, with
the final consonant swallowed, as it would be in colloquial French.
Who are the four models on which this character is based? One
might easily suggest — and defend — the following list: Henry
Miller, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, and . . . Herm an Wouk.
Henry Miller and Peter Quat are mentioned together on page
seven of the novel. They both strive for obscenity and achieve a
similar level in both language and description. The allusions to
Philip Roth are legion in the book. Like Roth, Quat’s tu rf is
alienation. Like Roth, Quat is a “celebrated novelist of the Ameri­
can Jewish experience” (p. 148). One of the incidents in
Deflow­
ering Sarah,
a Quat novel, is a transposition of an incident in
Roth’s short story “The Conversion of the Jews.” In addition,
Quat’s portrayal of a father figure rivals Roth’s portrait of the
mother in
Portnoy's Complaint.
It is also similar to Heller’s father
figure in
Good as Gold.
In many ways, in fact,
Inside, Outside
is a