Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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BERGER /T H E LESSON OF THE SHOFAR
57
which is to say Idolatry — puts gods into bizarre and surprising
places. . . ”38 Lars worships a text. The Stockholm in which he
lives abounds with constant reminders of the
Shoah:
there are
fires and smells of things burning; the city is full or refugees
and was itself during the War one of the few “cities of refuge”
for the Jewish people. Ultimately Lars rents an apartment near
where Nellie Sachs, author of “O, the Chimneys,” lived. Lars
imagines himself the son of Bruno Schulz, the Polish Jewish
writer and painter shot in the back by an S.S. man in the streets
of Drohobycz. At the time of his murder Schulz was working
on a manuscript entitled
The Messiah.
Lars believes that in some
mystical fashion he' “sees” with his dead father’s eye. Reviewing
literature for a large daily paper, Lars writes only about serious
books by central European authors. Shunning the ordinary,
Lars studies Polish so that he may be able to read his “father’s”
works in the original.
The tale’s other central characters include Heidi Ecklund,
herself a refugee and, one is led to believe, survivor of the Hol­
ocaust. Heidi runs a bookshop and arranges Polish lessons for
Lars. Dr. Ecklund, Heidi’s husband, is a figure who mysteriously
appears and disappears. He is quite possibly a smuggler and
a forger. Adela, a woman Lars’ own age, appears, claiming to
be Schulz’s daughter; she possesses a manuscript which she con­
tends is her “father’s” long-lost
Messiah
text. Lars and Adela
struggle. He reads the manuscript which contains a bizarre tale,
in reality a contemporary retelling of the Abraham and Terach
story, of Drohobycz empty of human beings, but filled by idols
of various sizes and nationalities. Lacking humans to worship
them, the idols begin worshipping each other. They clash. The
Messiah appears. Neither a “him” nor a “her” nor an “it,” the
Messiah was a structure. Lars thinks that it most resembles a
book. The Messiah itself gives birth to a bird having in its beak
a bit of hay. The bird flies around touching the idols with the
hay. Eventually, in this manner all the idols are destroyed. Lars
burns the manuscript, realizes that he has been duped by the
Ecklunds and by Adela who is probably their daughter, and
joins the world of the everyday. Abandoning serious literature,
he becomes the newspaper’s most popular reviewer.
Essentially, the novel traces Lars’ Jewish path coming to an
38.
Art & Ardor,
234.