Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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FISCH / ANGLO-AMERICAN JEWISH WRITING: THE SHIFTING CENTER
19
one another. Here stereotyping and extravagant shifts of per­
spective make the problems easier to handle. Annie herself ex­
periences hallucinatory dreams in which she communes with
the spirit of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav but wakes up to find
the American world to which she belongs unchanged.
Annie decides at the end to travel to Jerusalem where Andrea/
Sarai is to be matched to Micah, an American boy with a similar
background who has also undergone a conversion of the same
kind. In an extravagantly funny episode the parents of Micah,
more militantly American than Annie and more committed to
middle-class secular ideals, try to prevent the marriage by kid­
napping their son from the yeshiva, but Annie herself, sensing
that her daughter might achieve happiness in this union with
Micah, foils the kidnap attempt. There is a reverse kidnap by
the strong-arm men of the yeshiva who invade the King David
Hotel to get Micah back from his parents. Her daughter is then
whisked off to her marriage. Annie accepts Sarai’s new identity
and her chosen way of life but she is never truly reconciled
to it. Pushing her way through the crowd outside the yeshiva,
she notes, “I was a stranger among strangers in an alien land.”
She ends by dreaming that one day Andrea might give her a
granddaughter whom she would invite to America:
Once she is here I will slowly introduce her to science and math
and deductive reasoning and Chekhov and Dostoyevsky, Locke
and Susan B. Anthony, and when she is ready I will suggest
to her that she become a doctor and stay here and go to college.
Sarai will then have the pain that Annie feels now. The pen­
dulum will have swung the other way. In other words the prob­
lem remains. What we are left with is the crisis itself, the crisis
of divided identities as in the earlier writings we have consid­
ered, but focused not on assimilation versus loyalty to tradition
in a Diaspora setting, but on the Diaspora versus Israel with
all the inner tensions that confrontation brings with it.
ROTH’S CONTRIBUTION
The last fictional work I wish to consider is by far the most
informed as well as the most honest treatment o f this new source
of tension. It also handles the theme of divided identities with
a rare degree of humour and artistic virtuosity. I am referring