Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Lowin
36
provides the historical precedents of King David and Massada—
proper nouns laden with meaning—and calls for a renewed Jewish
State in the Land of Israel “where we will be men among men.”
The three parts of the song are punctuated by the following re­
frain:
If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?
If not this way, how? And if not now, when?
The careful reader will note that “Martin Fontasch” has emend­
ed HillePs text. In doing so, he has given it a new—but not neces­
sarily opposite—interpretation. What he has added is the notion of
a “way,” the way not only of the Jewish partisans of Eastern Eu­
rope, but in the writing of Primo Levi, the way that blends two tra­
ditions.
The idea of a “way” is emphasized by Warren Weaver’s transla­
tion. While much of the Jewish-Yiddish flavor of the novel is un­
successfully conveyed in the English translation—a language
normally hospitable to Jewish inflections—Italian nuances are suc­
cessfully preserved. In one instance, Weaver has demonstrated
sheer genius. He has observed that the novel is about a “way” and
has used that word in his translation of a variety of Italian words,
for example,
maniera
,
modo, strada
,
via,
and, of course,
cost
the “this
way” of the song.
JEWI SH PRESENCE
In explaining the mission of his group, Gedaleh insists on doing
things his way. Although the Russians want them to carry out their
sabotage as Russians, “we’re interested in being present as Jews”
(p. 182). The Jews of his group are united by the very fact that they
perceive reality through aJewish prism. It might appear on the sur­
face that their attachment to Judaism is characterized by a discon­
tinuity, by an effort to break with the past. In a moment of despair,
for example, the suggestion is made that were Moses the Lawgiver
to see the plight of the Jews at the time of the Holocaust, he would
shatter the Tablets once again. What is important in that assertion