Page 97 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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LOWIN / PHILLIP ROTH AND THE NOVEL OF REDEMPTION
8 9
to learn that he is not only a member of his suburban American
community — “I am them, they are me, Mr. Tzuref” — but
is also a member of the long-suffering Jewish people, the people
that has had a cataclysmic history and has suffered most recently
the catastrophe of the Holocaust — “Ach! you are us,” replies
Holocaust survivor Tzuref, “we are you.” When, at the end of
the story, he exchanges suits with the refugee, Eli learns finally
that he has more than one Jewish identity, he has both an Amer­
ican one and a European one, and that the very struggle he
is waging within himself stems from his fundamental duality.
IDENTITY CHANGE
In “The Ghost Writer,” Nathan Zuckerman, himself a fiction­
al character of Peter Tarnopol, the fictional writer in Philip
Roth’s novel
My Life As a Man,
takes the character of Amy
Bellette, a young woman with a suspicious foreign accent, and
gives her a new “identity” — that of Anne Frank. What is au­
dacious on the part of Roth the novelist is not his
chutzpa
at
trivializing the suffering of a Jewish saint, but that he has Amy,
within Zuckerman’s fiction of her, craft for herself a new Amer­
ican identity. Roth explained to the
Paris Review
that “Amy
Bellette as Anne Frank was Zuckerman’s own creation.” He ex­
plained further that “not only was she his creation, but . . . she
might possibly be her own creation too, a young woman invent­
ing herself
within
Zuckerman’s invention.”13
In
The Anatomy Lesson,
Roth explains, he goes about creating
fictions within fictions which result in multiple identities. “I am
a writer writing a book impersonating a writer who wants to
be a doctor impersonating a pornographer — who then, to com­
pound the impersonation, to barb the edge, pretends he’s a
well-known literary critic.”14 Here it is not so much a matter
of two identities, or even of a split identity, but rather it is a
matter of endless mirroring, of continuous play of theme and
variation, or as in a musical fugue, of point jousting with coun­
terpoint. That Roth seeks to achieve this effect of timeless re­
verberation as a matter of esthetic principle is evident from the
question Peter Tarnopol’s editor asks his writer in
My Life as
13. Lee, p. 220.
14. Lee, pp. 221-22.