Page 128 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
earlier journalistic portraiture. One would nevertheless find it
difficult to quarrel with his statement about the uses to which
he would like his writing to be put. Time and again, Grossman
will assert in
The Yellow Wind
that he has extremely modest moral
goals. Like Katzman, a central figure in Grossman’s 1983 novel,
The Smile of the Lamb,
Grossman shies away from absolutes. “I
do not seek pure justice, nor the settling of historical accounts,”
he maintains, “but rather possible life, no more than imperfect
and tolerable, causing as little injustice as possible”
(TYW,
p.
41 ) .
It is not surprising that
The Yellow Wind
— which posits a
moralistic use for fiction — should bring us back to Grossman’s
earlier book,
The Smile of the Lamb,
a novel in which the author
tries to work out the complicated moral dilemmas with which
his society is faced. Grossman himself makes the transition for
us when he relates, toward the end of
The Yellow Wind,
that
Seven years ago, I felt that I had to write something about the
occupation. I could not understand how an entire nation like
mine, an enlightened nation by all accounts, is able to train itself
to live as a conqueror without making its own life wretched. . . .
For two years I sat and worked out those thoughts and dilemmas
of mine. I wrote a novel,
The Smile of the Lamb,
and the more
I wrote, the more I understood that the occupation is a contin­
uing and stubborn test for both sides trapped in it. It is the sphinx
lying at the entrance to each o f us, demanding that we give a
clear answer. That we take a stand and make a decision. Or at
least relate. The book was a sort o f answer to the riddle of my
sphinx.
(TYW,
p. 212)
THE SMILE OF THE LAMB
The power of fiction to transform lives is the central theme
of
The Smile of the Lamb.
There are four major characters in
the novel: Uri Laniado, a young Israeli of Iraqi origin who burns
with the desire to repair the world; Katzman, a career military
officer, serving in the Judea and Samaria Command, a survivor
of the Holocaust and, therefore, a non-believer in the possibility
of repairing either the world or one’s own emotional make-up;
Shosh Avidan, Uri’s wife and Katzman’s lover, a case worker
at a clinic for delinquent children who brings about the death
of one of her young patients by giving his life too much mean­