Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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PIN SKER /THE CONTEMPORARY JEWISH-AMERICAN NOVEL
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Solomon’s relationships with his ex-wife Inge (a German Jew
whose “G erm an” simultaneously oppresses and attracts him),
his mistress Kristen (daugh te r o f an SS officer who atones her
assorted guilts on Solomon’s aging body), o r his sister Malka.
Solomon’s life is an ex tended exercise is “recovery,” bu t one
that knows full well tha t “it is not possible to fully recover what
was lost” (Badanes, 80).
The restored collections help give us a certain picture; our
scholarships aids us to understand this picture, and serves as a
guide. But only the memory holds actual bits and pieces of what
is gone (Badanes, 80).
POWER OF MEMORY
And there in lies the rub , fo r memories have a nasty habit
o f being highly selective; moreover, Solomon goes on to argue
that the very act o f selectivity sentences “some images o f the
past to the perpetual half-life o f sentimentality and official ver­
sions, and doom the remaining (and I have learned the more
vital) images to immediate oblivion — almost” (Badanes, 80).
The rem a rk is especially intriguing, given the fact that Badanes
wrote, and conducted and wrote on-screen interviews, for
Image
Before My Eyes
(1981), a highly regarded documentary about
Jewish life in Poland before the Holocaust.
Once again, metaphysical laws governing unity and dissolu­
tion assert themselves. Solomon’s professional colleagues fierce­
ly (and endlessly) deba te abou t the precise cha rac te r o f
Tlomackie Street in 1931 o r about what store replaced what
o ther store on Wiwulski Street in 1927. Like the American Hol­
ocaust professors who pester him with larger, bu t equally m ean­
ingless questions about the Holocaust’s “meaning,” they imagine
tha t o rd e r can be imposed on chaos, that scholarship can p ro ­
vide (impose?) a significant pa ttern on a universe tu rn ed upside
down. By contrast, Solomon makes his raids on the oblivion
o f the past in an effo rt to rescue a “single image.”
[His sister] Malkele’s patent leather shoe poised to press down
the pedal on the piano. Or the simplest of forgotten sounds:
my father clearing his throat in the morning while it is still dark
outside. Or a particular odor: the aroma of a chicken roasting
in my mother’s kitchen in the spring of 1923, while the baby