Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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ually ravage the Daughter of Germany, relieving her of guilt
while libelling the morality of the community.
The description, supposedly objective, of the naked evil in
is a dangerous encounter, as in any exorcism of
the satanic. Its association with the evil inclination
(yetser hard)
in the human condition is especially dangerous in erotic writing.
Sinclair’s argument (in an interview with Bryan Cheyette)17
about the legitimacy of the erotic and the broadening of the
boundaries of literature ignores the questionable value of what
is represented; it ignores, moreover, Steiner’s cogent arguments
against the literary status of pornography (in “Night Words,”
included in
Language and Silence).
The erotic, Steiner argued,
turns sex into a devalued convention, a boring standardized,
mechanical act of perversion; it erodes the reader’s last free­
dom, the freedom of imagining the most private moments of
human intimacy. A total description that leaves nothing unsaid
or unnamed tends to brutalize in the same way that the SS
guards brutalized their prisoners. For his part Sinclair leaves
little unsaid or unnamed when he attempts to shock the reader
out of complacent identification with the Jewish narrator and
anti-hero. In disabusing Jews of the moral superiority of Hol­
ocaust victims he claims to answer in his own terms Appelfeld’s
1984 call for amorality in writing of the Holocaust; in Sinclair’s
words, the extreme of the unimaginable and the impermissible
is to be represented as coitus, the point of no return.
An example of similar erotic fantasies in the lives of the sec­
ond generation of survivors is found in a novella
The Phosphorous
(1972) by the Israeli author and Hungarian survivor Itamar
Yaoz-Kest.18 The narrator travels by train to visit a death camp
with his mother, who believes acceptance of German reparations
hastened her husband’s death. However, the narrator forgets
his mother at the station and is enticed into bed by a witch-girl
before being borne away in her father’s sleigh to the camp.
Erotic liaison with the Daughter of Germany features in
Blood Libels
and in Wiesel’s
The Fifth Son;
the journey
to Germany is shared with Wiesel’s novel and Gershon’s
17. “On the Edge o f the Imagination,”
Jewish Quarterly,
31, 3-4 (1984), pp.
18. The second part appears in G. Ramras-Rauch and J. Michman-Melkman,
Facing the Holocaust: Selected Israeli Fiction
(Philadelphia: Jewish Pub­
lication Society, 1985), pp. 75-112.