Page 59 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Vand (Adam Gruenhorn). A former Marxist, Vand is a minor
State Department official whose wife Allegra is the quintessen­
tial Wasp, concerned only that her husband be made ambas­
sador so that she can live in a palace. Vand is sent to Europe
immediately following the Holocaust in order to count and bury
the dead. Allegra, indifferent to Jewish fate and viewing Europe
as the continent of culture, brings her ten year old daughter
to visit the war-ravaged continent. Other characters include Wil­
liam, Allegra’s anti-Semitic Protestant first husband, and
Gustave Nicholas Tilbeck. Tilbeck, the father of Allegra’s
daughter, is blackmailing Allegra and personifies Nature;
moved solely by passion and, at best amoral. He is indifferent
to the Holocaust and eventually drowns.
While in Europe, the unnamed ten year old vomits on the
hull of a German tank. The resulting pattern forms a map of
Europe and expresses Ozick’s view of the Germans and their
murderous kingdom. Allegra, for her part, never smelled the
stench of Zyklon B and wanted Enoch to stop wasting his time
with the dead.31 But Enoch’s reconversion had already begun.
He is described in terms that bring to mind Wiesel’s description
of the mission of the Holocaust witness. Vand is, for example,
“a liaison between the dead and the living, and between the
dead and the dead, and between the soon-dead and the too-soon
dead.” Ozick subtly has Enoch recite the names of the dead
linking them to the place of their murder. Reminiscent of Andre
Schwarz-Bart’s interspersing death camp names with praising
the Lord, and more recent liturgical practice on
Yom HaShoah,
Ozick evokes a post-Auschwitz
In contrast to Vand’s
reverence, Allegra is an anti-Semite who blames the victims for
their death.
Enoch Vand is portrayed in distinctly religious terms. Clutch­
ing the ledger of the dead against his chest, “he wore on his
body that book of woe as he might have worn Urim and Thum-
mim.” He is also described as ready to call out to the Shechinah.
Utilizing biblical and mystical referents, Ozick intends the read­
er to understand both the holiness of Vand’s task and the es­
31. This difference reveals the psychological truth o f Richard Rubenstein’s ob­
servation that the difference between Jews and non-Jews is that the latter
say that the Holocaust is something that happened to
whereas Jews
say it happened to
Richard L. Rubenstein, American Academy o f Re­
ligion Meeting. New Orleans, November, 1990.