Page 151 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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YUDKIN / REALITY IN THE FICTION OF YAAKOV SHABTAI
143
acter. Such a case is the appraisal made by Goldmann o f Caesar,
when he says: “I envy Caesar. He lives as though life is a round
o f pleasure that will go on for ever. H e’s got no problems. He
is a genuine free spirit.”29 The reader, o f course, knows that
this is a hopeless misjudgment o f Caesar, whose revelry is far
from an expression o f joy or a carefree nature, but results from
pain and deep gloom. One might expect that Goldmann, who
is so close to Caesar, should know more about him than does
the reader, who has only recently, as it were, made his acquaint­
ance. But the additional knowledge has been garnered from
the omniscient narrator, who, through explicit commentary, in­
formation and tone, has conveyed an assessment o f character
and characters beyond the external facts.
The relative failure o f the three principal protagonists is par­
alleled by their failure in love; Caesar is an insatiable Don Juan,
Goldmann unsettled and Yisrael destructive. It is embodied too
by the relative professional failure o f these people. Goldmann
is dissatisfied with his own work and indulges in fantasies o f
going o f f to nature reserves or to the country. His preoccupa­
tions with dietary fads and other such fashions, as well as his
interest in translating Socratic dialogues, are also indicators o f
this dissatisfaction. Caesar is an affluent photographer, but he
wants to work in films. Characteristically, however, he does
nothing concrete to achieve this ambition. Yisrael has no real
profession at all, although he deludes himself that he could
live o f f piano tuning. He is already reconciled to the possibility
that “nothing will come o f his own playing, in a professional
sense.”30 The common factor among the three is that they all
want something other, and reject what they possess. They also
find it impossible to correct their deeply ingrained behavior
patterns, however much they recognize the need intellectually
to effect such change. This expresses itself in matters small as
well as large, as evidenced for example by Goldmann’s mean­
ness: “a quality which he finds totally despicable in himself, but
ineradicable.”31
It will certainly be clear by now that the
ZD
protagonist in
whatever individual guise is a stranger in the world. He has
29.
ZD,
p. 59.
30. Ibid., p. 229.
31. Ibid., p. 182.