Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Mirsky
108
reports Cynthia Ozick, revealed to her in conversation: “For me
the Holocaust and a corn cob are the same.1 “This attitude finds
overt expression in non-fictional writing, in tracts which question
the historicity of the Holocaust or put forth the thesis that there
never was such a phenomenon as a “Final Solution,” that all talk of
it is a carefully planned cabal to discredit the German people or
achieve the goals of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.
The
Fabrication ofa Hoax
by Arthur R. Butz is one of the more notorious
examples of such attempts. Since in creative literature this attitude
speaks
ex silentio
it is not easily recognized. No one can direct an
author to deal with a specific topic. If a work deals with a period in
European history during which Hitler’s National Socialist ideolo­
gy determined the affairs of state and behavior of men, and chooses
to make no mention of concentration camps, forced labor, and ex­
termination programs, that may mean that the author has exercised
his artistic choice of subject and not that he is dismissing or deny­
ing the Holocaust. But the fact is that such works do exist, even as
more overt abuses of the Holocaust are found with increasing fre­
quency in
belles-lettres.
BANAL APPROACH
It is not uncommon to encounter in contemporary fiction what
I would characterize as the “diminution,” or even the “trivializa-
tion” of the Holocaust. In these instances the Holocaust is reduced
to a convenient point of comparison, a handy metaphor. The rath­
er successful and well-received novel by James Goldman,
The Man
From Greek and Roman
(1975), offers us an example of this form of
“diminution.” The climax of the novel is placed on a yacht called
the “Samovar,”which carries a crew of 30 and is one of the few lux­
ury yachts left in the world. The hero and heroine of the novel find
themselves on this yacht preparing to confront the mastermind be­
hind the plot to steal a great museum treasure. Looking about him
the hero remarks: “It’s Buchenwald with servants” (p. 237), an in­
1. “On Jewish Dreaming,”JWB Circle
Books in Review,
October 1977, p. 28.