Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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desires for absolute submission and total freedom”16 seem to
me to introduce the risk of the aesthetic enjoyment of cruelty
and perversion as well as the desecration of memory when
Auschwitz is invoked in erotic associations. The modern writer
seeks to push further the boundaries of the literary imagination,
but to say “the Holocaust and a corncob are the same” is to
view literature as having no moral responsibility, a viewpoint
against which Cynthia Ozick argued with passion in
Art and Ar­
dor
(1983).
One cannot help being disturbed when Jewish writers them­
selves resort to eroticism for their penetration of the sadistic
exploitation of Jewish prisoners and the extermination program
of which it was a part (one thinks of the scene in Wallant’s
The Pawnbroker
in which the husband watches the abuse of his
wife in the camp brothel). The reversal of roles of executioner
and object of desire has to do with the second generation Jew’s
burden of remembrance, the desire for revenge and the com­
plex relations with Germany, whose Daughter displaces the
American
shiksa
from her by now conventional place in bed.
The ethos of the sexually pure Aryan fostered by Nazi prop­
aganda at the same time entices forbidden thoughts of envy.
This is especially disturbing in Sinclair’s novel
Blood Libels
(1985). Set in Northwest London, Sinclair’s satirical scenario ex­
poses Hendonites as secret hedonists in a provocative rehash
of
Portnoy’s Complaint.
(Sinclair’s works frequently combine the
demonism in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories with the lewdness
of Alex Portnoy.) Jake Silkstone’s
bar-mitzvah
is turned into an­
other Lorelei by Helga, the family’s au-pair, who is German
but claimed by the family to be Swiss in order to comply with
the communal boycott of all things German. Helga has been
surreptitiously feeding the family pork and when the rabbi is
invited to dine Jake blackmails Helga into complying with his
masturbatory fantasies in the bathroom as the price for not di­
vulging the secret. At his
bar-mitzvah
Jake discovers the rabbi
in a compromising position with Helga. The affair is hushed
up and Helga actually feels relieved, for now she feels no guilt
“for what my people did to the Jews.” Sinclair explodes the
Jewish community’s taboo on Auschwitz by having the Jew sex­
38
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
16.
Reflections o f Nazism,
p. 19.