Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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by Jerzey Kosinski in
The Painted Bird.
Seeking to distance him­
self from his past, Lushinski, like Lars Andemening in
The Mes­
siah of Stockholm
, reinvents himself.
Yet there is one area in which Stasek insists on verity and
documentation. He gives his mistress a copy of Raul Hilberg’s
monumental book
The Destruction of European Judaism,
its author a “holy man of data.” Lulu also reads Wiesel’s
and weeps. It is imperative that nonwitnesses read both types
of accounts. Comparing Hilberg and Wiesel, she confesses being
unable to separate “the stories and the sources.” Stasek, reflect­
ing Ozick’s belief that for non-witnesses the Holocaust is becom­
ing dangerously literary, admonishes Lulu: “Imagination is ro­
mance. Romance blurs. Instead count the numbers of freight
trains.” Lulu is irritated by what she views as Jewish presump­
tuousness. The Holocaust did not destroy the whole world. “The
Jews,” she observes, “aren’t the whole world, they aren ’t man­
kind, are they?” Stasek responds that the term mankind typically
omits the Jews. Their argument is really a quarrel between those
who take history seriously and those who do not. For example,
Lulu tells him: “History’s what I hate.”
Ozick’s fiction exemplifies her belief that literature, like the
covenant itself, deals with moral seriousness. This seriousness
is bound to Jewish particularity, and stems from “the appear­
ance of the ram in the thicket.”20 Ozick views centrally Jewish
literature as that which “touches on the liturgical.” “Liturgy,”
she observes, “has a choral voice, a communal voice: the echo
of the voice of the Lord of History.”21 Finally, Ozick observes
that “A liturgical literature has the configuration of a ram ’s
horn .” Liturgical literature sharply contrasts with the post­
modern idolatry of self-referential morally neutral literature,
a position which leads to the remark she reports hearing at
a literary gathering: “For me, the Holocaust and a corncob are
the same.”22 For Ozick, aesthetics must never be permitted to
ignore or trivialize history. With Wiesel, Ozick understands that
20. Cynthia Ozick,
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989),
Art & Ardor,
Op. cit.,