Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

Basic HTML Version

responsibility to the abandoned victims of the Holocaust seems
an almost unbearable debt to a history which they grew up to
despise and mock. On the other hand, the silence of the parents
of the second generation causes resentment, and the second
generation tends to display more hostility towards Germany,
to demand retribution.
Another example of the
of the Holocaust is provided
in Philip Roth’s
The Ghost Writer
(1979) by the self-parodying
young writer Nathan Zuckerman. More mature than Alex
Portnoy, who tried to free himself from the overbearing love
of the Jewish mother and from his sister’s admonitions on the
sanctity of the Six Million by unleashing his libido on WASP
America, Zuckerman identifies with Isaac Babel’s Jewish gang­
ster Benya Krik, who can “sleep with a Russian woman and
satisfy her,” but at the same time he is Babel’s stammering nar­
rator with “spectacles on his nose and autumn in his heart”
as he tries to unravel the complications of the writer’s moral
integrity. He is accused by the Jewish community of encour­
aging anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism and while formulating his
response he fantasizes an infatuation with Anne Frank, impos­
sibly metamorphized into a Jewish refugee devotee of his fa­
vorite writer and host, E.I. Lonoff. This is not quite what
Evtushenko meant when he dubbed himself Anne Frank in
“Babi Yar,” but rather it has to do with the identities which
populate the writer’s imagination, including, in Zuckerman’s
case, Henry James and the semi-fictitious Lonoff.
To use Susan Sontag’s pun, fascism exerts a perverse fasci­
nation and the fascination of “kitsch and death” is evident in
the erotic association of desire with Nazism. The kind of sit­
uation made infamous by such films as
The Night Porter
italizes on the eroticism of power, and as Michel Foucault puts
it, “power carries an erotic charge,”15 Friedlander warns that
the diversion of attention from the horror of Nazism to a fas­
cination with its aesthetic image risks blurring authorial dis­
tance, just as the display of intellectual brilliance achieves the
opposite effect to that intended in Hitler’s final speech in
George Steiner’s
Portage of A.H. to San Cristobal.
Moreover, the
phantasms of our age, “the psychological hold of Nazism itself,
of a particular kind of bondage nourished by the simultaneous
15. Cited in Saul Friedlander,
Reflections o f Nazism,
p. 74.