Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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40
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Fifth Generation.
Both themes involve a test of post-Holocaust
identity and both precipitate the irrational associations evoked
by Germany, associations that know no statute of limitations.
The surrealism of Yaoz-Kest’s story approaches something
of the phantasmagorical quality of Appelfeld’s
Badenheim 1939.
True, the surrealist note is typical of European modernism, but,
as in Jacob Glatstein’s “Smoke” or Nelly Sachs’ “O, the Chim­
neys,” the metaphors have become literal. The return in time
and space is an exploration of the incomprehensible, where ev­
erything is known, nothing understood.
Fantasy is a claim on a lost homeland, a homeland that existed
only in the deluded minds of Appelfeld’s Central European
Jewish intellectuals and vacationers. But it also proves to be
one way to articulate the irrational reality of what happened.
In terms of Auschwitz, the hallucination of the refugee woman
in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story “The Cafeteria” is more real
than “normal” life. In an uncanny vision of the dead walking
among the living, sensing, perhaps, also the death of his own
Yiddish language and culture, the writer in that story learns
too late that Hitler is a real demonic presence and that the
preternatural must be given credence. Similarly, Jakov Lind,
a refugee who may well be termed a “displaced artist,” has fan­
tasized something far more real than the illusion of “normal”
everyday life, the reality in which Auschwitz is possible, the re­
ality after Kristallnacht.
Once time and location can no longer be determined, reality
soon fades out like a distant voice on a remote radio station.
Past and future intertwine and yesterday’s event turns into a
memory o f idle expectations; what is left is neither future nor
past but an all-embracing present. And even now, long after my
return, I still relive this present as if it were taking place now.
This present reality disturbs all my sceptical faculty and I simply
lack the imagination to invent this kind o f thing. Result: I believe
everything is true and there is no other reality
. 19
This passage from Lind’s
Travels to the Enu
(1985) succinctly
sums up the difficulty of communicating the experience to oth­
19. Jakov Lind,
Travels to the Enu
(London: Methuen, 1985), p. 66. On Lind’s
previous German-language writing see Lawrence Langer,
The Holocaust and
the Literary Imagination
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), pp.
205-250.