Page 144 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

Basic HTML Version

136
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
through work, and he seemed to be making a breakthrough.
His suicide marks the termination o f that process in despair.
Caesar is introduced as a foil to Goldmann, who clearly can
not comment on his own demise. Caesar notes the coincidence,
but, in the noting, does not h im self o ffer any clarification or
way through to transcendence and sense. In this, he is not only
the observer o f the absurd but the absurd observer. He has
his own problems, with which he fails to grapple and by which
he is smothered. His tendency is not to confront and attempt
to reduce the difficulty, but to escape into a life o f excess. He
is totally possessed by the “despairing process o f his (own) e x ­
tinction,”10 so that any observation that he makes o f the other
is “lacking any meaning.”11 He remains an unrepentant wom­
anizer and bon viveur, seeking the oblivion o f personal delight
whilst his son sinks into death o f an incurable disease. At the
moment o f enjoyment, all other considerations not only fade,
but, indeed, disappear, and “in the final analysis, Caesar was
unwilling and incapable o f imagining that good things can ever
come to an end .”12 Apart from his estranged wife, who has
the family responsibility, and his infinite casual affairs, he has
three women seriously in tow, all o f whom engage him pro­
foundly, emotionally and erotically in d ifferent ways.
The third major figure in the novel, Yisrael, the youngest
o f the three, is an undefined figure, never clearly staking out
his own direction or creating his own circumstances, living in
the shadow o f the other two, particularly o f Caesar, whom he
deeply resents and on whom he is dependent. He is constantly
world weary, despite his youth, and never states his own op in ­
ion .13 He lives largely at Caesar’s expense and in his studio,
with all the indignity involved, because “ . . . as between the d e ­
grading and oppressive dependency on Caesar and surrender
o f his own freedom and professional comfort, he preferred the
first possibility, so he adopted an ascetic lifestyle without clear
purpose, living in deliberate unawareness o f reality and time
10.
ZD,
p. 7.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid., p. 12.
13. e.g., ibid., p. 64, where Yisrael hears Goldmann’s positive views on pros­
titution without comment.
14. p. 65.