Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

Basic HTML Version

18
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
physical laws, that unity is a figment of the imagination. As soon
as a unity is slowly, bloodily forged it has already started breaking
down — and right in the bitter heart of the breaking down a
new unity is already being dreamed up in the darkness. (Badanes,
3).
This law, as Solomon bitterly points out, describes his life.
And the result, in Badanes’s ar tfu l hands, is a novel filled with
a fluid motion, one tha t moves easily from the convulsions o f
History to the smaller orbits o f Solomon’s family. For Solomon,
there are no easy distinctions between Past and Present, no neat,
clinically detached way to preserve the n igh tmare o f ou r century
inviolate, u n d e r the glass o f library cases. As he puts it:
They think that there is a door between now and then — a
cellar door — and they descend, these captains of scholarship,
to bring back artifacts to examine closely, but from a safe dis­
tance, as they say, and in order to write illuminating articles about
our rich Diaspora heritage. Where do they think we are living
now? They are like foolish rabbis declaring the Talmud ended.
The commentary goes on as long as history goes on. When I
cut the pages of commentary from a sixteenth-century manu­
script in the Forty-second Street Library and sell them for sixty-
five dollars a page to Harvard, or when I take one to my apart­
ment to look at it by a single light at 3 a.m., and touch it carefully
but with firmness, mingling my fingertips with the prints of
scribes and rabbis, scholars and poets, a man who paused, per­
haps, from his labor four hundred years ago to caress his white
thighs, the moist nether lips, the resilient buttocks of a woman
— these removals are in their way a commentary. (Badanes,
9-10).
Solomon’s “final opus” — which is simultaneously the story
o f its making and the book he made — is a species o f “com­
m entary ,” albeit one tha t forces us into regions o f sexual p e r­
version, o f incestuous fantasy and nea r fulfillment, o f deep
guilts about a fratricide he could not commit, and most o f all,
into the complicated Morris dance o f sadomasochism. Badanes’s
descriptions are, among o the r things, highly graphic, and there
is little in Solomon’s to r tu red consciences tha t he spares, for
himself o r us.
But tha t said, let he hasten to add tha t the obsessions in
The
Final Opus o f Leon Solomon
are ne ither trivial no r trivializing;
“po rnog raphy” would hardly be an app rop ria te term to describe