Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
unexpected, the precise status of the dramatis personae, the
truth about the war being fought over the border. He eventually
arrives “home,” but this home is very different now from what
it was when he left. His only familiar foci, those things which
gave him his bearings and thus created the home, not in his
house but in the cafe, have changed out of all recognition. No
one now either remembers or has even heard of the waiter,
Fisher, who used to work there. Our narrator is alienated once
again. Before, he was in a foreign country, in enemy territory,
and therefore very much the other. Now, he is a stranger here,
where he should be at home.
POLITICS AND THE NOVEL
We have already seen how much the Ben-Ner narrative is
involved with the current events of the setting, with the political
concerns of the time and place. But the author has entered
times far from his own. In
Protokol
he adopts the guise, the
assumptions and the language of a Party functionary, working,
inevitably, for the International in the Haifa of the 20s. The
novel consists, as it were, of a diary discovered and brought
to the attention of the Central Committee (although not trans­
lated into Russian as being insufficiently significant) in 1945.
So, there are several layers of narrative distance from the time
o f composition and publication at the onset of the 80s. Like
all the best political novels, this one too combines political con­
cern with personal embroilment and tendency. Why else after
all, the reader must certainly ask, do the characters move in
the direction that they do? The book (the diary, the protocol)
opens with a very dramatic scene, where the framed narrator
is burying his lover and has to take care of the newborn baby.
The narrator is not only a Communist in the new Yishuv, but
is also a double agent within the Party, penetrating the faction
led by his friend Ackerman, in order from the point of view
of the established leadership, to destroy it. Immediately, an am­
biguity has been established. Where do his genuine loyalties and
sympathies lie, with the official party or the Trotskyite break­
away group? So, there is a double otherness. He is separated
from the Jewish community of Palestine by working for an or­
ganization inimical to its purposes, and then also separated from
that organization in order to undermine it. But he is also per­