Page 43 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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separate his own identity from that of his German persecutor
who is now his victim. Revenge, as many survivors of the camps
found out, is not always retribution. Cohn reasons that the dead
Jews are an accursed presence in the German national con­
sciousness even more than when they were alive; they represent,
to use Ernst Nolte’s phrase in the recent German historians’
debate, a past that refuses to go away
ergangenheit die
nicht vergehen will).
But Cohn wonders whether the guilt could
be purged by a new, nonanti-Semitic Nazism which turns to
the Jews as allies. This travesty of the New Left attacks on Israel
after 1967 as the victor, no longer the victim, who maltreated
the Arabs, now the Jews’ Jews, questions Jewish identity after
the Holocaust. The
finds the roles of perpetrator and
victim confusingly interchangeable.
A young Anglo-Jewish writer Clive Sinclair has written a short
story called “The Creature on My Back” which provides a classic
case study of a
haunting the imagination with the spectre
of mass-murder. The Canadian narrator confesses: “I have a
creature on my back. It is invisible. No one knows it is there
but me.” The
almost kills him and his pregnant wife
on more than one occasion. The narrator goes to his wife’s psy­
chiatrist for salvation from the modern nightmare, but Dr.
Eckhardt tells him he is lucky: “‘You have a creature on your
back. Such things are not common in Canada. It may yet go
away. As for myself, I have a number on my arm. A souvenir
of Europe.’”
The Holocaust lives on in the imagination, blurring any dis­
tinction between fantasy and reality, for the real is fantastic;
a witch from the Grimm Tales offers an abortion; soap bars
from the concentration camps are buried in Israel. Therefore
when Sinclair’s narrator laughs over abortions or soap bars it
is with uncanny and gruesome laughter, which may be good
therapy for exorcizing the
of the Holocaust, but it makes
obscene. Sinclair’s literary persona in the collection
of short stories which includes “The Creature on My Back,”
Hearts of Gold
(1979), is a sex-mad shlemiel whose pen becomes
a phallic symbol as he publishes his private fantasies and dirty
literary jokes involving the vampire nephew of Vladimir
Nabokov or Cathy from
Wuthering Heights
photographed by
Lewis Carroll. The play on image and reality, on desire and
mimesis, exposes a derivative and self-conscious fraud doting