Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Tel-Aviv that she knows to the idyllic Gibraltar, which she re­
members with such affection, whither she is planning to return
as a tourist. The whole action moves between two poles, that
o f at homeness in the world and that o f estrangement from
it. Meir can feel genuinely at one with his city, as when walking
with his wife, Aviva: “They set out with slow step, content, and
he felt how he loved these old streets, here he felt h im self in
his city, and the walk with Aviva filled him with content and
happiness, all was suddenly at ease and whole as he w ished.”36
But then, almost in the same breath, he suddenly “ . . . felt how
something was troubled inside him, and an imperceptible shad­
ow, which had hitherto been hidden, as though in the air, was
gathered up, and it hovered round him and was already ab­
sorbed into his flesh .”37
Our hero, like the protagonists in
ZD ,
is m iddle-aged (42 to
be precise), He has a feeling, as we are informed at the start
o f the novel, that he is now in a state o f rapid decline and
on the way to death. So the obsession with death is picked up
once more, and Meir sees it as his function to absorb that reality
and make it part o f his consciousness. He finds too that he
is unwell, with high blood pressure. This factor shapes the novel
as a whole, renders an objective correlative to Meir’s angst, ju s ­
tifies his trips, and connects him with the doctor, with whom
he experiences the delicious fantasy beyond this life, at the nov­
el’s conclusion. His friend and counsellor, Posner, acts the part
here o f Goldmann in
ZD ,
providing Meir with a “reality base”
(beyond himself) and a certain view o f that reality. This is very
much a recognition that (using almost the same words as had
Goldmann): “suffering is the true substance o f life, whereas
happiness is only a chance flash.”38 It is this doctrine as much
as death itself, with which Meir has to come to terms. In fact,
the progress o f the novel is matched by the sense o f Meir’s
increasing sense o f self-estrangement in all circumstances. In
Amsterdam, he is: “wrapped in a feeling o f strangeness.”39
Thus too in the hotel,40 and later in the museum .41 T h e author
36.
SD,
p. 40.
37. Ibid.
38. Ibid., p. 63.
39. Ibid., p. 128.
40. Ibid., p. 132.
41. Ibid., p. 142.