Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

Basic HTML Version

YUDKIN / THE POST-WAR ANGLO-JEWISH FAMILY NOVEL
67
Lord your God; God has chosen you to be a treasured people
unto Him of all the peoples on the face o f the earth .” It is this
special covenant between the people and God deriving from a
special relationship, that has singled out this people for responsi­
bilities and tasks that are not demanded of the generality of
mankind.
The elected member
plays upon this ambiguity of election. The
family has elected Norman Zweck to bear its sins and to suffer for
them. But in the process of his internalization of guilt, Norman
also turns his fury on to God for that other election, “He sank
weeping on to his bed. ‘Dear God,’he said. It was a word, after all,
that covered everybody. ‘Look after us cold and chosen ones.’”
The Jewish sense of election, too, is historically ambivalent. It is
not only an election of a people to carry out divine command­
ments and to be a light unto the nations, in return for which a
portion would be alloted in the Holy Land. As understood by a
twentieth-century literary tradition, for example by Richard
Beer-Hoffman and by Isaac Lamdan, election is to suffering, and
God’s promise to Abram (before his name was changed to Abra­
ham) is accompanied by the dreaded “vulture,” always present on
the scene of Jewish history. This novel presents a daring combi­
nation of a specific case history in a contemporary context with an
interpretation of Jewish experience. Here, the “elected mem­
ber,” normally so understood in a voluntaristic, representative
sense as someone privileged to accept responsibility, is the scape­
goat for the family. The images of the scapegoat for atonement,
election of the Israelite nation (in both positive and negative
senses), the transference of family pathology and the sense of
being a member of parliament come together in the novel.
COMPLEX INTERRELATIONSHIPS
Just as the victim’s fate is an expression and potential expiation
of familial guilt, so the family seems to need his, i.e. Norman’s,
presence. Even his sister Bella, whose life has been tied to his and
delimited by his demands, requires his return from the hospital
where he is undergoing treatment, “Yes, she wished him back.
He had become a necessity for her, the sick Norman, the failed
Norman, the scapegoat for all her happiness.” His condition is
blamed on the others, and her fulfillment is dependent upon his
situation. The father is tied to the son. But the son too is not inno­