Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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sequently, Ozick believes that literature is for the sake of hu ­
manity, it has a “corona of moral purpose,”4 and announces
the possibility of redemption. In contrast to the Greek belief
in fate, redemption insists “on the freedom to change one’s life.”
Much in the manner of
redemptive or liturgical liter­
ature is that which illustrates the possibility “of turning away
from, or turning toward; of deliverance; the sense that we act
for ourselves rather than are acted upon; the sense that we
are responsible . . .”5 Enoch Vand, the protagonist of her mam­
moth first novel
(1966) is a prototype of such redemption.
Yet Ozick is concerned that the making of literature consti­
tutes a violation of the Second Commandment. Imagination,
the “flesh and blood” of literature is, at the same time “the
very force that struggles to snuff the redemptive corona.”6 The
novelist constantly risks idolatry. Aesthetics is the “enemy” of
history. For example, Ozick boldly argues that the Holocaust
itself was an aesthetic solution. “It was,” she writes, “a job of
editing, it was the artist’s finger removing a smudge, it simply
annihilated what was considered not harmonious.” The fact
that the daily morality of Germans was unaffected by the mur­
der of the Jews reveals that “getting rid of the Jew had nothing
to do with conduct and everything to do with art. The religion
of Art isolates the Jew — only the Jew is indifferent to aesthetics,
only the Jew wants to ‘passionately wallow in the human real­
ity.’”8 Recently, however, Ozick has dramatically revised her
view of the writer’s imagination. She now believes that the “idol-
making capacity of imagination is its lower form, and that one
be a monotheist without putting the imagination under
the greatest pressure of all. To imagine the unimaginable is
the highest use of the imagination. I ’m in the storytelling busi­
ness, but I no longer feel I ’m making idols. The insight that
the largest, deepest, widest imaginative faculty of all is what
you need to be a monotheist teaches me that you simply cannot
be a Jew if you repudiate the imagination. This is a major shift
for me.”9 Precisely because of this, Ozick continues to unde r­
Op. cit.,
Op. cit.,
Op. cit.,
9. Cynthia Ozick, “The Art of Fiction XCV,”
The Paris Review
29 (1987),