Page 146 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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o f nine months in the mid-seventies, against the past, the past
o f each o f the three protagonists, together, separately and as-
sociatively. Since the “present” is the tense o f writing the past,
so the past becomes the past perfect .16 This tense aspect does
not exist as a verbal form in Hebrew, which then has to express
it by auxiliary means, contextually, or with the aid o f adverbs,
= already. We will see how the past tense o f
communicated in the constant awareness o f this past beyond
the past. Our protagonists are living in the m iddle-aged bodies,
which are composed o f ongo ing memories o f youth and mat­
uration. They are also composed o f other people, who also come
from the past. The present indeed can not exist, except gram­
matically, because as soon as it has been thought and articulated,
it becomes the past. So the novel is the past telling o f a further
past, incorporating it in its developing state.
The above account may sound more like a necessarily true
and thus banal account o f the human condition than a specific
description o f the Shabtai novel. But there must be few nar­
ratives where this reality has become so all-pervasive, so deter­
mining o f the texture and color o f that narrative. What we are
trying to establish is the author’s view o f reality, as well as the
way in which that reality is projected. In brief, we have portraits
o f three individuals, not only in their present situation, but in
their recall and presentation o f the past. The open ing marks
out the major theme, that o f pervasive death, the one that opens
the novel, that o f Goldmann’s father, and the one that seals
it, that o f Goldmann himself. In the interim, we have Caesar’s
observation o f life’s futility and his futile efforts to escape that
futility. Both Goldmann and Caesar latch on to the rather
worthless, younger man, Yisrael, who also wreaks havoc in his
passivity, indecision and tragic failure. All is presented with an
enormous zest and sense o f fun, but is nevertheless marked
by the Preacher’s words: “All is vanity.”
16. Grammarians now distinguish between the two tenses o f the English verb,
present and past, and aspects o f each tense. Thus, the equivalent o f the
Latin pluperfect, i.e. something already past in the past, expressed in He­
brew with the auxiliary ‘had,’ is past in tense and perfect in aspect.