Page 132 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

Basic HTML Version

operative Mordy”
p. 208). Indeed, the tapes she is rec­
ording are nothing but story.
She even calls herself “Sheherazade,” and the king to whom
she tells these stories so that he will let her live come next morn­
ing is Shosh’s father, Abner, a poet who once pontificated that
“every fiction has a core of absolute tru th”
p. 137).
Katzman, not exactly Shosh’s lover and even less precisely
Uri’s commanding officer, is, unlike them, not a Sabra, and
was not brought up with the redemptive rhetoric of Zionism
mixed in with his mother’s milk. A survivor of the Holocaust,
Katzman has come to the conclusion that it is impossible to re­
pair the world, and that the only way to live with the human
condition is to anesthetize oneself against all human emotions.
All this is not to say that Katzman is foreign to idealism and,
consequently, to fiction. On the contrary, Katzman has been
immersed in fiction since childhood, not through his mother’s
milk but through his father’s literary obsessions. During the war,
Katzman was in hiding with his father, a scholar who was writing
a book on the moral parallels between the
Orlando Furioso,
sixteenth-century epic poem by Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto,
and Cervantes’s
Don Quixote.
In a manner similar to the way
Cervantes sets up a causal relationship between fiction and mad­
ness, Ariosto posits a correlation between love and insanity.
Katzman has learned, both from his father’s texts and from
the Holocaust, to be wary, therefore, of both love and fiction.
As Katzman understands his father’s enterprise, fiction may be
put to use by someone who will look at life squarely. In terp re t­
ing his father’s message, Katzman concludes: “If I understand
correctly, what he meant was that the enemy is in ourselves”
p. 179)
Katzman, the soldier and the non-poet, is no less bookish than
Abner, the poet and essayist of the Zionist idea. But Katzman
feels contempt for Shosh’s father and for his involvement in
politics. “Politics for him,” explains the anonymous narrator of
Katzman’s chapters, “was merely a stage play without any bear­
ing on real life”
p. 146). Obviously, Katzman’s critique
is not of politicians but of ideologues, whom he accuses, no
less than Shosh, of creating impossible worlds. There is, nev­