1 Against Foreshadowing
1. As I explain in the Acknowledgments, the term sideshadowing
was originally coined by Gary Saul Morson and is central to his book, Narrative and
Freedom: The Shadows of Time (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994). I then coined
the corollary concept of backshadowing, and at one time Morson and I thought of
publishing our work together as a single, two-part study. For all their differences in
focus and areas of concern, Foregone Conclusions and Narrative and Freedom
are linked in fruitful ways and can be read as two voices in what has become a newly
emerging critical counter-tradition that unites ethics and exegesis from an anti-utopian
and anti-systematic perspective.
2. In 1 Corinthians 10:6, Paul writes of the
Jews in the desert, "Haec autem in figura facta sunt nostri" (These events
happened as symbols to warn us). The original Greek verses, in which the Jews are called typoi
hemon (figures of ourselves), make the scope of the appropriation still clearer. Amos
Funkenstein points out that when "Christian polemics spoke of the 'blindness' of the
Jews ( caecitas Iudaeorum )," it was precisely because Jews were "unable
to detect in the old dispensation the foreshadowing of the new." Funkenstein,
"Franz Rosenzweig and the End of German-Jewish Philosophy," in his Perceptions
of Jewish History (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993),
300. For a discussion of the history and literary force of Christian figural typology, see
Erich Auerbach, ''Figura," in his Scenes from the Drama of European Literature
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 11-76. On the way the Hebrew
Scriptures were consistently transformed within the Christian hermeneutical tradition, see
Rowan A. Greer, "The Christian Bible and Its Interpretation," in James L. Kugel
and Rowan A. Greer, eds., Early Biblical Interpretation (Philadelphia: Westminster
Press, 1986), 107-208.
3. Jonathan Boyarin, Storm from Paradise:
The Politics of Jewish Memory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), xv.
My argument here is not intended to deny that Judaism, too, has been powerfully shaped by
a providential reading of history, one in which foreshadowing is a central nar-
rative device. The concept of history
being controlled by God for the direct reward or punishment of the Jewish people, from the
parting of the Red Sea to the military victories of the Six Day War, is fundamental to
many religious Jews. However, Jewish theology is neither supersessionist nor progressivist
in the sense I have described: unlike Christianity, that is, Jewish thinkers did not
interpret the texts of another religion as earlier, incomplete prefigurations of their own
narratives, and hence they had no reason to conceive of time as a progression from partial
blindness to full vision.
4. Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne
Eigenschaften, ed. Adolf FrisÃÂ© (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1978), 134: "Das
Prinzip des unzureichenden Grundes! . . . Sie . . . wissen was man unter dem Prinzip des
zureichenden Grundes versteht. Nur bei sich selbst macht der Mensch davon eine Ausnahme;
in unserem wirklichen, ich meine damit unserem persÃÂ¶nlichen Leben und in unserem
ÃÂ¶ffentlich-geschichtlichen geschieht immer das, was eigentlich keinen rechten Grund
hat." All references are to this edition and are acknowledged in the body of the
text. The English translation quoted is by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser, The Man
Without Qualities, 3 vols. (London: Secker and Warburg, 1966), 1:181. I have modified
Wilkins and Kaiser's formulations when the German seemed to require such a change. Source
citations for Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften indicate the page number in the German
text, followed by the volume and page number in the Wilkins and Kaiser translation. The
German text is found in the notes.
5. Philip Roth, The Counterlife
(Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1986). The whole of Roth's two-page preface to
the Franklin Library Edition of his novel is interesting as an example of the kinds of
themes he was pondering during the book's composition. Paradoxically, one of the things
that makes his list intriguing is its very dullness and conventionality as literary
formulae. Here, if anywhere, the enormity of the gulf between the lived richness of a
fictive imagination and the relative barrenness of its theoretical promptings is evident.
6. Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus
and Harmony, trans. Tim Parks (New York: Knopf, 1993), 22. Often, Calasso's
description of mythical narration sounds like a recapitulation of Philip Roth's note to The
Counterlife: "Stories never live alone: they are the branches of a family that we
have to trace back, and forward. . . . Everything that happens, happens this way, or that
way, or this other way." (10, 147)
7. Jasper Griffin, "Alive in Myth," New
York Review of Books, vol. 40, no. 8 (April 22, 1993): 25-26.
8. Hermann Broch, Die Schlafwandler: Eine
Suhrkamp, 1978). See, for example, the
description of Hanna Wendling in part 3, chapter 38, or of Ludwig GÃÂ¶dicke in part 3,
9. For a lucid summary of the changing
interpretation of Freudian over-determination, see J. Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, The
Language of Psycho-Analysis, trans. D. Nicholson-Smith (New York: W. W. Norton, 1973),
10. On the concept of "various chains of
meaning" intersecting at the "nodal point" of a symptom, see Laplanche and
Pontalis, Language of Psycho-Analysis, 293.
11. Just as each life can have a multitude of
counterlives, so each history is accompanied by numerous potential counterhistories, not
all of which will ever be narrated. Amos Funkenstein has defined perhaps the most common
kind of counterhistory as a "specific genre of history written since antiquity
[whose] function is polemical. Their method consists of systematic exploitation of the
adversary's most trusted sources against their grain. . . . Their aim is the distortion of
the adversary's self-image, of his identity, through the deconstruction of his
memory." Amos Funkenstein, "History, Counter-history, and Narrative," in
Saul Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the "Final
Solution" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 69; reprinted in
Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History, 36). As examples of explicitly
polemical counterhistories, Funkenstein gives ''Manetho's hostile account of Jewish
history, based largely on an inverted reading of Biblical passages," Augustine's De
Civitate Dei ("A veritable counter-history of Rome"), the seventh-century
Jewish Sefer Toldot Yeshu ("Narrative of the History of Jesus"), in which
Jesus is described as a corrupt magician intent on "seducing the unlearned
multitude," and Protestant historiography (intent upon "the construction of a
counterhistory of the Church"). Funkenstein, "History, Counterhistory, and
Narrative," in Friedlander, Probing the Limits of Representation, 71-73;
reprinted in Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History, 39-41.
2 Backshadowing and Apocalyptic History
1. This description is found in Gary Saul Morson,
"Genre and Hero/ Fathers and Sons: Inter-generic Dialogues, Generic Refugees,
and the Hidden Prosaic," Stanford Slavic Studies, vol. 4, no. 1 (1991):
336-81. The phrase about seeing reality with "the eyes of the genre" is from P.
N. Medvedev and M. M. Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, trans. A.
J. Wehrle (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 134.
2. Holocaust is derived from the Greek holokauston
used in the Septuagint in the sense of "totally consumed by fire." In the
Septuagint it refers specifically to sacrifice by fire, assonant with the Hebrew term for
sacrificial offering, olah, which, as Berel Lang explains, "designates the
type of ritual sacrifice that was to be completely burnt (as in Leviticus 1:3ff.). The
English usage of 'holocaust' in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries elaborated this
literal sense of a religious burnt offering; later, the term began to appear as a metaphor
for sacrifice more generally. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the term
characteristically appears in reference to the complete destruction of an object or place
or group, most often by fire, but also by other (mainly natural) causes. . . . Both the
Hebrew designation shoah ('wasteland' or 'destruction,' as in Isaiah 10:3
and Proverbs 3:25) and the Yiddish variation of the Hebrew churban
('destruction')the latter traditionally applied to the destruction of the
Temples and then reapplied metonymically to other destructionsare more
accurately descriptive than 'Holocaust,' because they imply a breach or turning point in
history ( and because they reject the connotation of 'sacrifice')." Lang, Act
and Idea in the Nazi Genocide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), xxi. James
Young points out that "holocaust in the present sense didn't become the preferred
term until between 1957-59,'' and gives the history of some of the other ways the language
tried to define (and thereby implicitly interpret) the unprecedented Nazi attempt to
exterminate all Jews: "the Hebrew term churban ['destruction'] suggested
itself immediately . . . [but] its Yiddish echo ( churbn ) and explicitly religious
association made churban less appealing to Labor Zionists in Palestine. . . . As a
result the term sho'ah was adopted . . . marking the event as part of Jewish
history but avoiding comparisons with specific precedents." Young, Writing and
Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative Consequences of Interpretation (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1988), 85-86. But even sho'ah, although in many ways
preferable to other designations, is not without unwelcome implications of its own. As
Chana Kronfeld pointed out to me, the modern Hebrew usage of sho'ah, when it does
not refer specifically to the Nazi genocide (in which case it is almost invariably
preceded by the definite article, ha-sho'ah ), is used for natural disasters like
earthquakes or floods ( sho'ah teva means "natural catastrophe"), that
is, it designates events for which no human agent can be held responsible and which,
therefore, are not subject to moral judgment. See also Uriel Tal, "Excursus on the
Term Shoah, " in Shoah: A Review of Holocaust Studies and Commemorations,
vol. 1, no. 4 (1979): 10-11.
3. Irving Howe, "Writing and the
Holocaust," in Berel Lang, ed., Writing and the Holocaust (New York: Holmes
and Meier, 1988), 190.
4. Yael Feldman has studied "the extent
to which Israeli culture . . . attempted to assimilate the experience of the Shoah to its
overall Zionist perspective." During her childhood in Israel, when the Shoah was
discussed, "centerstage was occupied (and quite literally so) by school plays about
the Warsaw uprising or the heroic mission of Hanna Senesh. For us Yom hashoah
vehagvurah (Day of Holocaust and Heroism) was not 'Martyr's Day,' as my current
Israeli calendar translates it, but rather a celebration of resistance and national pride,
a prolegomena to the Israeli Day of Independence." Yael S. Feldman, "Whose Story
Is It Anyway: Ideology and Psychology in the Representation of the Shoah in Israeli
Literature," in Saul Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of representation:
Nazism and the "Final Solution" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992),
223. See also Saul Friedlander, "Die Shoah als Element in der Konstruktion
israelischer Erinnerung,'' Babylon 2 (1987): 10-22. For a fascinating comparative
study of the ways the Shoah has been taught in schools in Germany, Israel, and the United
States, see Randolph L. Braham, ed., The Treatment of the Holocaust in Textbooks
(New York: Social Science Monographs and Institute for Holocaust Studies, 1987).
5. Primo Levi's Se questo ÃÂ¨ un uomo,
misleadingly renamed in English as Survival in Auschwitz, rather than as "If
This Is a Man," trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Macmillan, 1961), 82.
6. I say uncannily delayed because one of the
more surprising aspects of Hebrew literature is that, in Alan Mintz's description,
"between World War II and the Eichmann trial in the early sixties there are no
significant works of Hebrew literature which directly engage the Holocaust, with the major
exception of [the poet] Uri Zvi Greenberg." Mintz, Hurban: Responses to
Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 158. It
is true, of course, as several readers including Robert Alter and Chana Kronfeld have
commented, that poets like Nathan Alterman, Amir Gilboa, and Hayim Gouri did write
significant poems about the Shoah before the Eichmann trial, which began in April 1961.
But Mintz's description of Israeli prose fiction is fundamentally accurate and
characterizes one of its most problematic aspects. I explore some of the context and
consequences of this delayed response in the section on Aharon Appelfeld.
7. Young, Writing and Rewriting the
8. My argument here is in no way metaphorical.
On the contrary, similar demographic calculations were among the ways in which it first
became known how many millions of Russians had been killed during Stalin's years
in power. See Robert Conquest, The
Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (New York: Macmillan, 1970); The
Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1986); and The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1990). Estimating what the population would have been without the mass
killings requires "counting" the descendants not born to the murdered, and this
is true for all historical catastrophes, not merely for the Nazi or Stalinist brutalities.
Thus, for example, Alan Bullock estimates that "fifteen million men, women, and
children . . . perished in the [Russian] civil war itself and the subsequent
faminesixteen or seventeen million in all for the years 1914 to 1922, if one
adds those soldiers and civilians killed during the First World War. Russia's population
in 1923 was about thirty million less than would have been expected from projections of
the earlier figures." Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (New York:
Knopf, 1992), 103.
9. Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide,
10. Lawrence L. Langer, Holocaust
Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 205.
11. Michael Ignatieff, "The Rise and Fall
of Vienna's Jews," New York Review of Books, vol. 36, no. 11 June 29, 1989):
12. Ibid., 22-24. Here it might be helpful to
think of the distinction, long current in the social sciences, between logical and
probabilistic conceptions of cause and effect. Such a distinction helps crystallize the
idea that, to the people involved in making decisions, future developments which plausibly
appear to be the least probable can, in fact, occur, while the most probable possibilities
never actually come to pass. Clearly, a probabilistic understanding of causality entails
more flexible attributions of responsibility for the results of specific actions than does
a historically deterministic or strictly logical model. (I owe the suggestion to include
these considerations to one of the readers of my manuscript for the University of
13. Ernst Pawel, The Nightmare of Reason: A
Life of Franz Kafka (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1984), 25.
16. For a different, although related
perspective on the link between Nazi imagery and kitsch, see Saul Friedlander, Reflections
of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death, trans. Thomas Weyr (New York: Harper and Row,
17. See, for example, Ruth Wisse's review,
"The Jew from Prague," Commentary, vol. 78, no. 5 (November 1984): 62-64.
Theodore Ziolkowski even calls the book "likely to be the definitive biography for
some time to come
in any language"; World
Literature Today, Winter 1985, p. 86. John Updike, not surprisingly, is the least
persuaded of Pawel's numerous reviewers. He maliciously compares Pawel's literary tone to
the famous "'booming parade-ground voice' of that much-maligned father Hermann
Kafka." More important, Updike records his discomfort with the way the biographer's
"insistent references to the coming Holocaust shadow his narrative of Kafka's
life" until ''there is a danger of making Hitler the hidden hero of that story and
the Holocaust its culminating event." John Updike, "The Process and the
Lock," New Yorker, June 18, 1984, pp. 108, 111.
18. George S. Berkeley, Vienna and Its
Jews: The Tragedy of Success (Cambridge, Mass.: Madison Books / Abt Books, 1989), 87.
19. Arthur C. Danto, Analytical Philosophy
of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 12.
21. Pawel, Nightmare of Reason, 328.
22. George Steiner, Language and Silence
(New York: Atheneum, 1966), 50.
23. Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka:
Representative Man (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1991). The general tone and level of
moral scrupulousness of Karl's book can be gauged by the dedication: "To the 6
million, Europeans murdered by Europeans." Leaving aside the curious and confused
decision to describe the murdered simply as "Europeans," a polemical move that
makes little sense when one considers that the total number of Europeans who died in World
War II enormously exceeded the six million Jews butchered by the Nazis, there is the more
serious question of how the biography of even the most brilliant modern Jewish writer
could possibly serve as a fitting memorial to the victims of the Shoah. The disproportion
between the offering and what is being commemorated is so great that it approaches the
26. A useful contrast here is offered by the
more modest and historically nuanced comment by William McCagg in A History of Habsburg
Jews, 1670-1918 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 179-80:
"Turn-of-the century Bohemian Jewry is the reputed source of Kafka's expressions of
human agony. Kafka's apparent slavery to wordsthe agony with which slowly,
slowly he followed words first into aphoristic expression, later into stories and
never-completed novels; his inability to decide; his failure to finish; his extraordinary
sensitivity to double meaningsall this can be associated with
the 'in-betweenness' of the Jewish world
in which he grew up. One may doubt certain aspects of some of the more deterministic
assessments of Kafka: it is not certain, for example, that from the start his creative
career was assertively Jewishhe seems rather to have discovered his identity
when he was well along. Further, Bohemian Jewry's malady was perhaps less 'in-betweenness'
than pronounced 'slipping and sliding' of the late nineteenth century."
27. The discussions between Benjamin and
Scholem constitute the most impassioned and lucid commentary on Kafka that I know. In
addition to numerous passages throughout Scholem's various memoirs, especially From
Berlin to Jerusalem: Memoirs of My Youth, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1980)
and Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (trans. Harry Zohn (New York:
Schocken, 1981), the key text of their discussion is The Correspondence of Walter
Benjamin and Gershom Scholem, 1932-1940, trans. Gary Smith and Andre Lefevere (New
York: Schocken, 1989). The best critical study of the crucial imaginative triangulation of
Kafka, Benjamin, and Scholem is Robert Alter's Necessary Angels: Tradition and
Modernity in Kafka, Benjamin, and Scholem (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991).
28. The lines from Mein Kampf are
quoted in Lucy S. Dawidowicz, ed., A Holocaust Reader (New York: Behrman House,
1976). As Alan Bullock points out, referring to both Stalin's and Hitler's increasingly
tyrannical and murderous regimes, "It is not only the appetite for power that grows
with its exercise, but also the conception of how much further it can be pushed."
Bullock, Hitler and Stalin, 182.
29. Little is made, today, for example, of
Herzl's intense love of Wagner, a love that was as much a part of his most ardent Zionist
years as it was of his earlier assimilationist phase, or of his plan in Der Judenstaat
for a modern industrialized Jewish state rather than the redemptively agrarian one so
central to left-wing Zionist ideology after his death. More poignantly, the initial
callousness of the 1930s Zionist leadership to reports of Nazi persecutions, a callousness
that so shocks us today, arose in part because the extent and ferocity of the German
attacks was simply not imaginable. Thus, when Hapoel Hatsair (the weekly newspaper
of the Labor [Mapai] Party), in the March 21, 1933, issue, "described the Nazi
persecution of the Jews as 'punishment' for their having tried to integrate into German
society instead of leaving for Palestine while it was still possible to do so," or
when the Revisionist paper Hazit Haam editorialized on June 2, 1933, that "the
Jews of Germany are being persecuted now not despite their efforts to be part of their
country, but because of those efforts," the model the authors of statements like
had in mind was something much closer to
a state-inspired pogrom than to systematic genocide. Only from the perspective of
backshadowing can the Zionist leaders in 1933 be judged guilty of not fully comprehending
the enormity of the catastrophe about to be unleashed on European Jewry, and recent
studies that illustrate the "blindness" of the yishuv 's spokesmen [the
Jewish community in Palestine] by citing public pronouncements from the early 1930s fail
to understand that Zionism itself was unprepared for something as unprecedented as
"the final solution." But ironically, only backshadowing allowed the same
leaders to claim, after the early 1940s, that the death camps were the
"inevitable" outcome of European anti-Semitism and hence served as "proof''
of the accuracy of their historical predictions and redemptive ideology. (The quotations
are taken from Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust,
trans. Haim Watzman [New York: Hill and Wang, 1993], 10. Segev cites numerous similar
statements from contemporary Zionist newspapers and political meetings in Palestine
published during the first years of Nazi rule in Germany.)
30. Jacob Katz, "Was the Holocaust
Predictable?" Commentary, vol. 59, no. 5 (May 1975): 41. See also Katz, From
Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700-1933 (Cambridge: Harvard University
31. Katz, "Was the Holocaust
32. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the
English Working Class (New York: Vintage, 1966), 12.
33. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of
Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951), 44. For a sympathetic treatment of
Arendt's changing attitudes toward European Jewry, anti-Semitism, and Zionism, see
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1982). It is curious that the most representative collection of Arendt's
essays on both the Nazi genocide and Zionism has appeared in a two-volume German edition, Essays
und Kommentare, much of which is made up of scattered pieces originally published in
English: vol. 1, Nach Auschwitz; vol. 2, Die Krise des Zionismus; both
volumes ed. Eike Geisel and Klaus Bittermann (Berlin: Edition Tiamat, 1989).
34. S. Y. Agnon, Two Tales, trans.
Walter Lever (New York: Schocken, 1966), 22.
35. The annexation of Austria was accomplished
de facto the moment German troops entered the country on March 12, 1938, and became
"legal" as the result of a plebiscite held on April 10, 1938. For Berkeley's
dismissal of Arendt and Zweig, see Vienna and Its Jews, 106. Stefan Zweig's famous
description of Austria under Franz Joseph as "the Golden Age of Security.
Everything in our almost thousand-year
old Austrian monarchy seemed based on permanency, and the State itself was the chief
guarantor of this stability" ( The World of Yesterday, trans. Cedar Paul and
Eden Paul [London: Cassell, 1987], 13), is regularly mocked for its shortsightedness by
backshadowing commentators. But when Zweig wrote these lines, not long before his suicide
in exile in Brazil in 1942, he knew just how illusory that "permanency" was and
how unwilling the new state would be to guarantee the "stability" of its Jewish
population. (Even the mention of Austria's "almost thousand-year old monarchy"
is a deliberate and ironic echo of Hitler's boast of founding a ''thousand-year Reich
.") Zweig's relationship to the Austria of the Habsburgs, and especially to the
position of Jews within the empire, was characteristically complicated, but it was never
one of naive complacency, and it was precisely to preempt the easy censure of
backshadowing that he emphasized the reasons for general, as well as Jewish, optimism in
pre-World War I Austria.
36. Danto, Analytical Philosophy of
37. JÃÂ¼rgen Habermas, "A Review of
Gadamer's Truth and Method, " in Fred R. Dallymayr and Thomas A. McCarthy, Understanding
and Social Inquiry (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), 346. I owe the
suggestion to look into Habermas's review of Gadamer, a review that is also full of
references to Danto's Analytical Philosophy of History, to Lawrence S. Rainey of
Yale University. My argument throughout these pages was sharpened by Rainey's comments on
an early draft of this section, which appeared in Modernism/Modernity, vol. 1, no.
1 (January 1994).
38. Habermas, "Review of Gadamer's Truth
and Method, " 348-49.
39. It is only fair to mention here that, as
Lawrence Rainey suggested to me in a letter, in the logic of Habermas's oeuvre as whole,
he is primarily concerned with the legitimacy of a kind of "counterfactual
backshadowing" (Rainey's term) intended to secure the critical potential of the
utopian imagination. According to this view, in Habermas's writings, backshadowing is
essentially counterfactual, and thus closer to my own position than it is to Danto's. But
even Rainey agrees that the simplistic model of narrative and storytelling posited by both
Habermas and Danto reinforces, even if unintentionally, precisely the kind of reductive
historiographical backshadowing whose effects I criticize.
40. Wilhelm Dilthey, Der Aufbau der
geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissen-schaften, in Gesammelte Schriften
3:233. Quoted in Habermas, "Review of Gadamer's Truth and Method, "
41. My argument here is, of course, not
intended to deny the importance
of messianic thinking in the Jewish
tradition. But Jewish thought has usually conceived of the significance of the messianic,
and more specifically, the relationship between the messianic moment and ordinary time, in
a different way than does Christianity. For Jews, the Messiah's coming does not
automatically minimize, let alone negate, the value of daily activities in the world. For
example, there is a famous Talmudic story about a man who is planting a tree when he hears
that the Messiah has arrived. The fascinating conclusion of the debate about what he ought
to do next is that his obligation is first to complete the planting of the tree and only
then to go and see the Messiah. See Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky, eds.,
The Book of Legends: Sefer Ha-Aggadah, trans. William G. Braude (New York:
Schocken, 1992), 361. Even in the direct physical presence of the transcendent, one's
responsibilities toward the regular, normative world are not suspended; the messianic
impulse in Judaism is rarely a form of judgment in whose light nothing else has any
importance. In many strains of Christian thinking, however, the world is only the site of
a pilgrimage intended to prepare one for eternity, and the actions performed in the world
ultimately count only insofar as they are the grounds of the judgment that decides one's
eternal destiny. (So, for example, in Purgatorio 5, Dante shows us that a man like
Buonconte da Montefeltro could spend his life engaged in violence, but the sincerity of
his last minute repentance suffices to gain his salvation.
42. On SchÃÂ¶nerer's career both before and
after the attack on the Neues Wiener Tageblatt, see Carl Schorske's Fin-De-SiÃÂ¨cle
Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Knopf, 1980). For a respectful, but I think
fundamental, critique of some of Schorske's major assumptions, see Steven Beller, Vienna
and the Jews, 1867-1938: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1989). The best brief account of the differences between SchÃÂ¶nerer and Lueger, and of
Lueger's increasing conservatism and rapprochement with the propertied classes once he was
confirmed as mayor, see Robert S. Wistrich, The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz
Joseph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), especially the chapter called
"The New Austrian Anti-Semitism," 205-37.
43. Ignatieff, "Rise and Fall of Vienna's
44. For a fascinating discussion of the link
between Nazi rhetoric and imagery and that of SchÃÂ¶nerer's movement, see Jean-Pierre
Faye, Langages totalitaires (Paris: Hermann, 1972). Steven Beller says that while
"SchÃÂ¶nerer's brand of racial antisemitism . . . never posed a serious threat to
Austria's Jews . . . [it] was very powerful at exactly the most crucial point, as far as
the cultural ÃÂ©lite were concerned, in
the student body of the German universitythe group of future teachers and
officials." Beller, Vienna and the Jews, 192.
45. Theodor Herzl, Briefe und
TagebÃÂ¼cher, ed. Alex Bein, Hermann Grieve, Moshe Schaerf, and Julius Schoeps, 4
vols. (Frankfurt: Ullstein/PropylÃÂ¤en, 1983), 2:252:
Gegen Abend ging ich auf die Landstrasse. Vor dem Wahlhaus eine stumm
aufgeregte Menge. PlÃÂ¶tzlich kam Dr.Lueger heraus auf den Platz. Begeisterte Hochrufe,
aus den Fenstern schwenkten Frauen weisse TÃÂ¼cher. Die Polizei hielt die Leute
zurÃÂ¼ck. Neben mir sagte Einer mit zÃÂ¤rtlicher WÃÂ¤rme aber in stillem Ton: "Das
ist unser FÃÂ¼hrer!" Mehr eigentlich als alle Deklamationen und Schimpfereien hat
mir dieses Wort gezeigt wie tief der Antisemitismus in den Herzen dieser BevÃÂ¶lkerung
(Toward evening, I walked along the Landstrasse. In front of the
polling station, a silently excited crowd. All of a sudden, Dr. Lueger emerged onto the
square. Rousing cheers, women waving white sheets out of the windows. The police held the
people back. [Someone standing] next to me said with tender warmth but in a calm tone:
"That is our FÃÂ¼hrer." This expression, more than any other declamations and
revilings, showed me how deeply anti-Semitism was rooted in this population.)
46. For a powerful recent treatment of the
legacy of Hitler's triumphant entry into Vienna on March 15, 1938, see Thomas Bernhard's
play, Heldenplatz (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989).
47. Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi
48. Even Herzl does not seem to have been
overly worried about SchÃÂ¶nerer's legacy or influence. He certainly saw SchÃÂ¶nerer as
a characteristic example of Austrian anti-Semitism, but in the Letters and Diaries
there are surprisingly few references to him, and when SchÃÂ¶nerer's name does appear, it
is usually as one of a long list of dangerous political leaders. One typical entry in 1895
( Briefe und TagebÃÂ¼cher 2:113) records a dream in which Herzl sees himself
challenging either SchÃÂ¶nerer, Lueger, or Aloys Prinz von Liechtenstein (1846-1920; a
chief voice of the reactionary party in the Austrian Reichstag, successful anti-Semitic
candidate, and ally of Lueger in the Christian-Social Party) to a duel:
Einer meiner TrÃÂ¤ume der unklaren Zeit war: Alois Lichtenstein,
SchÃÂ¶nerer oder Lueger zum Duell zwingen. WÃÂ¤re ich erschossen worden, hÃÂ¤tte mein
hinterlassener Brief der Welt gesagt, dass ich als Opfer der ungerechtesten Bewegung fiel.
So mÃÂ¶ge mein Tod wenigstens die KÃÂ¶pfe und Herzen der Menschen bessern. HÃÂ¤tte ich
aber den Gegner erschossen, so wollte ich vor dem Schwurgerichte eine grossartige Rede
halten, worin ich zuerst ,,den Tod
eines Ehrenmannes" bedauerte. . . . Dann wÃÂ¤re ich auf die
Judenfrage eingegangen, hÃÂ¤tte eine gewaltige Lassalle'sche Rede gehalten, die
Geschwornen erschÃÂ¼ttert, gerÃÂ¼hrt, dem Gerichtshof Achtung
abgezwungenund wÃÂ¤re freigesprochen worden.
(One of the dreams I had during the time of my confusion [i.e., before
the discovery of Zionism as a life-goal], was to compel Alois Lichtenstein, SchÃÂ¶nerer,
or Lueger to a duel. If I had been shot, the letter I would have left behind would have
announced to the world that I had fallen victim to one of the most unjust of all movements
[anti-Semitism]. At least in this way my death would have improved the minds and the
hearts of the people. However, had I shot my adversary, I would have given a grand speech
in front of the jury, in which I would have first regretted "the death of an
honorable man." . . . Subsequently, I would have turned to the Jewish question: I
would have delivered a powerful speech in the style of Lassalle, stirred up and moved the
jury, forced them into paying me respectand then I would have been
49. George Clare, Last Waltz in Vienna: The
Destruction of a Family, 1842-1942 (London: Macmillan 1981), 121; first published as Das
waren die Klaars (Berlin: Verlag Ullstein, 1980).
51. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies, 29.
52. Emmanuel Berl, Interrogatoire par
Patrick Modiano suivi de Il fait beau, allons au CimetiÃÂ¨re (Paris: Gallimard,
53. Arthur Schnitzler, Der Weg ins Freie
(Frankfurt: S. Fischer Verlag, 1978). The translation by Horace Samuel, The Road to the
Open (New York: Knopf, 1923) has recently been reprinted with a useful new foreword by
William M. Jonston (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991). My quotations in
the text are taken from this edition, with the original German provided in the notes. In
1992 the University of California Press published a new English version, called The
Road into the Open, translated by Roger Byers with an introduction by Russell A.
Berman. The sudden and almost simultaneous availability of two translations indicates that
Schnitzler's novel is coming to be considered among the most important works of its
period, especially for anyone interested in the question of Jewish life and consciousness
in fin-de-siÃÂ¨cle Vienna. For helpful discussions of the historical background to Der
Weg ins Freie, see the chapter "Arthur Schnitzler's Road to the Open," in
Wistrich, Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph, 583-620; Wistrich's earlier
essay "Arthur Schnitzler's 'Jewish Problem,'" The Jewish Quarterly, vol.
22, no. 4 (Winter 1975), 27-30; and Harry Zohn, "Three Austrian Jews in German
Literature: Schnitzler, Zweig, Herzl,'' in Josef Fraenkel, ed., The
Jews of Austria: Essays on Their Life,
History, and Destruction (London: Vallentine, Mitchell, 1967), 67-82.
54. Schnitzler, Der Weg ins Freie
(Northwestern University Press ed., 250).
Glauben Sie, daÃ es einen Christen auf Erden gibt, und wÃÂ¤re
es der edelste, gerechteste und treueste, einen einzigen, der nicht in irgendeinem
Augenblick des Grolls, des Unmuts, des Zorns selbst gegen seinen besten Freund, gegen
seine Geliebte, gegen seine Frau, wenn sie Juden oder jÃÂ¼discher Abkunft waren, deren
Judentum, innerlich wenigstens, ausgespielt hÃÂ¤tte? Was sie Verfolgungswahnsinn zu
nennen belieben, lieber Georg, das ist eben in Wahrheit nichts anderes als ein
ununterbrochen waches, sehr intensives Wissen von einem Zustand, in dem wir Juden uns
befinden, und viel eher als von Verfolgungswahnsinn kÃÂ¶nnte man von einem Wahn des
Geborgenseins, des Inruhegelassenwerdens reden, von einem Sicherheitswahn, der vielleicht
eine minder auffallende, aber fÃÂ¼r den Befallenen viel gefÃÂ¤hrlichere Krankheitsform
vorstellt. (Fischer ed., 203-4).
55. Ibid. (Northwestern University Press ed.),
'Mein Instinkt . . . sagt mir untrÃÂ¼glich, daÃ hier, gerade
hier meine Heimat ist und nicht in irgend einem Land, das ich nicht kenne, das mir nach
den Schilderungen nicht im geringsten zusagt und das mir gewisse Leute jetzt als Vaterland
einreden wollen, mit der BegrÃÂ¼ndung, daÃ meine Urahnen vor einigen tausend
Jahren gerade von dort aus in die Welt verstreut worden sind.' . . . NationalgefÃÂ¼hl und
Religionen, das waren seit jeher Worte, die . . . ihn erbitterten. . . . Und was die
Religionen anbelangte, so lieÃ er sich christliche und jÃÂ¼dische Legenden so gut
gefallen, als hellenische und indische; aber jede war ihm gleich unertrÃÂ¤glich und
widerlich, wenn sie ihm ihre Dogmen aufzudrÃÂ¤ngen suchte. . . . Und am wenigsten
wÃÂ¼rde ihn je das BewuÃtsein gemeinsam erlittener Verfolgung, gemeinsam lastenden
Hasses mit Menschen verbinden, denen er sich innerlich fern fÃÂ¼hle. Als moralisches
Prinzip und als Wohlfahrtsaktion wollte er den Zionismus gelten lassen, . . . die Idee
einer Errichtung des Judenstaates auf religiÃÂ¶ser und nationaler Grundlage erscheine ihm
wie eine unsinnige Auflehnung gegen den Geist aller geschichtlichen Entwicklung. (Fischer
56. On this theme, see Sander L. Gilman, Jewish
Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1986). Although I disagree with several of Gilman's premises and
believe that in general the explanatory force of "Jewish self-hatred" has been
greatly overestimated, Gilman's study is a serious attempt to understand the phenomenon,
and it does not fall into the easy clichÃÂ©s with which backshadowing burdens Jewish
history. But given the carelessness with which the phrase is used, there may be some
advantage to using Hermann Broch's less familiar term "inner anti-Semitism."
Nonetheless, for all my reservations, I
have no doubt that some form of what we
call "Jewish self-hatred" did exist, although more among the families of
converted, rather than secularized, Jews. Indeed, one of the most discouraging examples
that I have come across only became fully known after Gilman's book was published. In Ray
Monk's biography, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (New York: Free Press,
1990), there are unmistakable indications that Wittgenstein had internalized many of the
most pernicious myths about Jews current in the Vienna of his youth, and in moments of
doubt applied them all to himself. These even included the notion of the Jew in European
history "as a sort of disease [that] no one wants to put . . . on the same level as
normal life . . . [and to which no one can grant] the same rights as healthy bodily
processes." (314). Monk comments how truly sad it is to see that
just as Wittgenstein was beginning to develop an entirely new method
for tackling philosophical problemsa method that has no precedent in the
entire tradition of Western philosophy . . . he should be inclined to assess his own
philosophical contribution within the framework of the absurd charge that the Jew was
incapable of original thought. "It is typical for a Jewish mind," he wrote,
"to understand someone else's work better than [that person] understands it
himself." Wittgenstein describes his own work, for example, as essentially nothing
more than a clarification of other people's ideas:
Amongst Jews "genius" is found only in the holy man. Even
the greatest of Jewish thinkers is no more than talented. (Myself for instance.) I think
there is some truth in my idea that I really only think reproductively. I don't believe I
have ever invented a line of thinking. I have always taken over from someone else.
I have simply straightaway seized on it with enthusiasm for my work of clarification. That
is how Boltzmann, Hertz, Schopenhauer, Frege, Russell, Kraus, Loos, Weininger, Spengler,
Sraffa have influenced me. Can one take the case of Breuer and Freud as an example of
Jewish reproductiveness?What I invent are new similes . (316-17)
57. John Dewey, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
(New York: H. Holt, 1938), 239.
58. The first text that I know of in which the
actual phrase "a usable past" occurs is Van Wyck Brooks, "On Creating a
Usable Past," The Dial, vol. 64, no. 764 (April 11, 1918): 337-41. Since its
initial formulation in the work of writers like Dewey, Beard, and Brooks, the concept has
been attacked as tendentious and ahistorical, without however, ceasing to exert its own
counter-pressure on more conventional notions of historiography. See especially Arthur O.
Lovejoy, "Present Standpoints and Past History," Journal of Philosophy,
vol. 36, no. 18 (August 1939): 477-89; and Ernest Nagel, "Some Issues in the Logic of
Historical Analysis,'' Scientific Monthly 74 (March 1952): 162-69.
59. Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the
Philosophy of History," in his Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry
Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), 255.
60. Ernst Pawel, The Labyrinth of Exile: A
Life of Theodor Herzl (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1989), 61.
62. It is worth pointing out, though, that
debates about the proper relationship with the Arabs were always an important part of the
internal struggles in Zionist ideology, as the early quarrels between Ahad Ha-Am and Herzl
make clear. The controversy about the actual number and location of Arabs in Turkish, and
then in Mandate, Palestine continues to be a fiercely controversial and partisan topic in
current historical/demographic studies of the region. For a penetrating biography of
Herzl's most important opponent in the Zionist movement, who openly rejected Herzl's
optimistic assessment of future Arab-Jewish relationships, see Steven J. Zipperstein, Elusive
Prophet: Ahad Ha'am and the Origins of Zionism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University
of California Press, 1993).
3 Narrating the Shoah
1. Theodor W. Adorno, "Engagement," in Noten
zur Literatur, Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1974), 2:423:
Die sogenannte kÃÂ¼nstlerische Gestaltung des nackten kÃÂ¶rperlichen
Schmerzes der mit Gewehrkolben NiedergeknÃÂ¼ppelten enthÃÂ¤lt, sei's noch so entfernt,
das Potential, GenuÃ herauszupressen. Die Moral, die der Kunst gebietet, es keine
Sekunde zu vergessen, schliddert in den Abgrund ihres Gegenteils. Durchs ÃÂ¤sthetische
Stilisationsprinzip, und gar das feierliche Gebet des Chors, erscheint das unausdenkliche
Schicksal doch, als hÃÂ¤tte es irgend Sinn gehabt; es wird verklÃÂ¤rt, etwas von dem
Grauen weggenommen; damit allein schon widerfÃÂ¤hrt den Opfern Unrecht.
A more nuanced and provocative
account of Adorno's sentences would emphasize not so much the reader's pleasure,
but literature's own self-delight, the inevitable accents of mastery and joy in its
expressive powers that all great art exhibits, irrespective of the immediate theme. From
this perspective, what appalls Adorno is not the failure of literature to be adequate to
the demands of its subject but, on the contrary, its limitless capacity to transform
anything, including the death camps, into an "occasion" for the display of
its potency. For a searching reaction to
this problem in the light of our contemporary fascination with "poetry of
witness," see John Bayley, "Night Train," New York Review of Books,
vol. 40, no. 12 (June 24, 1993): 20-22.
2. Leo Bersani, The Culture of Redemption
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), 1.
3. Fackenheim then spells out the implications
of his commandment as follows: "We are first commanded to survive as Jews, lest the
Jewish people perish. We are commanded, second, to remember in our very guts and bones the
martyrs of the Holocaust, lest their memory perish. We are forbidden, thirdly, to deny or
despair of God, however much we may have to contend with him or believe in him, lest
Judaism perish. We are forbidden, finally, to despair of the world as the place which is
to become the kingdom of God, lest we help make it a meaningless place in which God is
dead or irrelevant and everything is permitted. To abandon any of these imperatives, in
response to Hitler's victory at Auschwitz, would be to hand him yet other, posthumous
victories." This injunction was originally delivered during the symposium
"Jewish Values in the Post-Holocaust Future," held in New York City on March 26,
1967. It was subsequently published under the title ''The 614th Commandment" in Judaism,
vol. 16, no. 3 (Summer 1967): 269-73, and has been reprinted in Fackenheim's collection of
essays, The Jewish Return into History: Reflections in the Age of Auschwitz and a New
Jerusalem (New York: Schocken, 1978), 19-24.
4. MuselmÃÂ¤nner (literally,
"Muslims") is the term coined in the concentration camps for those
"near-skeletons who, their feelings, thoughts, and even speech already murdered by
hunger and torture, still walked for a while till they dropped to the ground." See
Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World (New York: Schocken, 1982), xix.
5. Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved,
trans. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Summit Books, 1988), 11. Levi attributes the story to
"the last pages" of Simon Wiesenthal's The Murderers Are Among Us, but
this must be a faulty recollection since Wiesenthal's account is significantly different.
Wiesenthal remembers being asked by SS RottenfÃÂ¼hrer (Corporal) Merz, "'Suppose an
eagle took you to America. . . . What would you tell them there?'" After being
repeatedly assured that he would not be punished for telling the truth, Wiesenthal told
Merz, "'I believe I would tell the people the truth.'" But to this, Merz calmly
replied, "'You would tell the truth to the people in America. That's right. And you
know what would happen, Wiesenthal? . . . They wouldn't believe you. They'd say you were
crazy. Might even put you in a madhouse. How can anyone believe this terrible
has lived through it?'" Simon
Wiesenthal, The Murderers Are Among Us, ed. Joseph Wechsberg (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1967), 334-35.
6. Himmler's speech is printed as
"Document 1919-PS" in volume 19 of the Trial of the Major War Criminals
Before the International Military Tribunal: Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-1 October 1946
(New York: AMS Press, 1948), 110-173. The passages cited are on page 145 of the
transcript. A partial translation of Himmler's talk can be found in Lucy T. Dawidowicz,
ed., A Holocaust Reader (New York: Behrman House, 1976), 130-40. For a fine
analysis of the speech, see Peter Haidu, "The Dialectics of Unspeakability: Language,
Silence, and the Narratives of Desubjectification," in Saul Friedlander, ed., Probing
the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the "Final Solution'' (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1992), 277-99.
7. Levi, Drowned and the Saved, 83-84:
"We survivors are not only an exiguous but also an anomalous minority: we are those
who by their prevarications or abilities or good luck did not touch bottom. Those who did
so, those who saw the Gorgon, have not returned to tell about it or have returned mute,
but they are the 'Muslims,' the submerged, the complete witnesses, the ones whose
depositions would have a general significance."
8. Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved,
9. Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The
Israelis and the Holocaust (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), 8.
10. Helen Lewis, A Time to Speak
(Belfast: Blackstaff, 1992), Foreword by Jennifer Johnston, ix.
11. Already before the Israeli Supreme Court
ruling, District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman Jr., reviewing the case for the U.S. Sixth Court
of Appeals, concluded in June 1993 that new evidence, largely from the secret police files
of the former U.S.S.R., exculpated Demjanjuk from the "specific crimes" of Ivan
12. James E. Young, Writing and Rewriting
the Holocaust: Narrative Consequences of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1988), 26, 31.
13. Jonathan Boyarin, Storm from Paradise:
The Politics of Jewish Memory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 86.
14. Dominick LaCapra, "The Personal, the
Political, and the Textual: Paul de Man as Object of Transference," History and
Memory, vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1992): 15.
15. Thomas Keneally, Schindler's List
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 10. These examples were suggested to me by Berel
Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
16. Berel Lang, ed., Writing and the
Holocaust (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988), 4-6.
17. Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi
18. George Steiner, "The Long Life of
Metaphor: An Approach to the Shoah," in Lang, ed., Writing and the Holocaust,
19. Aharon Appelfeld, quoted in Lang, ed., Writing
and the Holocaust, 83.
20. Henri Raczymow, "La mÃÂ©moire
trouÃÂ©e," PardÃÂ¨s 3 (1986): 180: "De quel droit parler, si l'on n'a
ÃÂ©tÃÂ©, comme c'est mon cas, ni victime, ni rescapÃÂ©, ni tÃÂ©moin de
l'ÃÂ©vÃÂ©nement?" The entire issue of PardÃÂ©s, on the topic
"Paris-JerusalemLes Juifs de France: Aventure personnelle on destin
collectif?" is extraordinarily interesting and inflects the issues we have been
debating here with the singular perspectives of the contemporary Franco-Jewish
intelligentsia. In English, see Ellen S. Fine's helpful essay "The Absent Memory: The
Act of Writing in Post-Holocaust French Literature," in Lang, ed., Writing and the
Holocaust, 41-57. My own interest in Raczymow was initially stimulated by Fine's
sensitive discussion of his work.
21. Henri Raczymow, Un Cri sans voix
(Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 186: "Je ne vois rien. . . . Je ne veux rien voir. Vouloir
voir me placerait du cÃÂ´tÃÂ© du S.S. chargÃÂ© de voir par l'oeilleton de la chambre
Ã gaz l'ÃÂ©tat des gazÃÂ©s."
22. Norma Rosen, "The Second Life of
Holocaust Imagery" Midstream, vol. 33, no. 4 (April 1987): 58.
24. See the interview with A. B. Yehoshua in
Joseph Cohen, Voices of Israel: Essays on and Interviews with Yehuda Amichai, A. B.
Yehoshua, T. Carmi, Aharon Appelfeld, and Amos Oz (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), 74, 77.
See also Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi's analysis of this pattern as necessary for Israeli
self-consciousness. She calls it "the slow but ideologically consistent process by
which, in the decades after the war, the Holocaust was assimilated into the logic of
Jewish regeneration so that it would not shake the foundations of the new state."
Ezrahi, "Considering the Apocalypse: Is the Writing on the Wall Only Graffiti?"
in Lang, ed., Writing and the Holocaust, 137-53; and "Revisioning the Past:
The Changing Legacy of the Holocaust in Hebrew Literature," Salmagundi, nos.
68-69 (Fall 1985-Winter 1986: 245-70). As is clear from the arguments in this section, I
am inherently suspicious of the appeal to raison d'ÃÂ©tat in such a context, but
at the descriptive, if not justificatory, level I find the specific details of Ezrahi's
argument fascinating. Nonetheless, one of the things that makes the earlier silence more
like an act of repression than a "slow but ideologically consistent process" is
that when, in large part triggered by the Eichmann trial and then reinforced by the
trauma of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it
became impossible to continue avoiding a confrontation with the Shoah, that confrontation
followed so powerfully the psychoanalytic logic of the "return of the
repressed." The topic flooded the national consciousness, until in Saul Friedlander's
description, "There are today more books in Israel about the Shoah than about
probably any event in Israel's history." From a roundtable discussion printed in
Lang, ed., Writing and the Holocaust, 288.
25. Freema Gottlieb, "A Talk with Aharon
Appelfeld," New York Times Book Review, November 23, 1980, p. 42.
26. Yael S. Feldman, "Whose Story Is It
Anyway: Ideology and Psychology in the Representation of the Shoah in Israeli
Literature," in Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation, 229.
27. Tom Segev has shown how many of the most
influential Zionist writers continued to maintain a punitive judgmental tone about
European Jewry, even after the news of the death camps became widespread in the yishuv
. Thus, for example, on November 27, 1942, " Davar [the left-wing daily paper
of the Histadrut Labor Federation] published an article describing the extermination of
the Jews as 'punishment from heaven for not having come to Palestine.'" Segev, Seventh
Million, 98. In addition to the demoralizing tone blaming the victims for their fate,
there is the absurdity of invoking "heaven" by an anti-religious, secular
movement in order to add a still greater weight to the relentlessness of its historical
28. Esther Fuchs, "Author with a Dual
Root: An Interview with Itamar Yaoz-Kest," a chapter in Fuchs, Encounters with
Israeli Authors (Marblehead, Mass.: Micah Publications, 1982), 29. Appelfeld calls
this strain in Zionism "a piece of wishful thinking. It tried to impose the peasant
as the Jewish norm and cut itself off from the old Jewish typology of an uprooted people.
. . . The Zionist wish to create a 'normal' society . . . does not take into consideration
the greatness, as well as the flaws, of the old pattern. Though the early Zionist may have
hoped to escape from the Jewish fate, one cannot escape from oneself, and should not
really want to." Gottlieb, "Talk with Aharon Appelfeld," 42.
29. Segev, Seventh Million, 179.
30. Cohen, Voices of Israel, 138.
31. Alan Mintz, Hurban: Responses to
Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 204.
Mintz goes on to empasize that the word for rescue itself, hatsalah, meant not just
bringing the survivors to Eretz Israel but rehabilitating and "redeeming"
them, which included having them forget the past. (243).
32. Segev, Seventh Million, 158. The
strength of the yishuv 's desire to shed any signs of Diaspora weakness is evident
even at the most basic level of speech. As Benjamin Harshav's The Meaning of Yiddish
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 132, points out,
"The 'Sephardic' [North African] pronunciation adopted in Israeli Hebrew, with its
strong, 'masculine' stress on the last syllable of each word, was the symbol of virility
and determination as opposed to the whining 'oy' and 'ay' of Ashkenazi [European]
Hebrew." That this decision was made largely by Ashkenazi Jews who continued to look
down on Sephardic ones as culturally inferior is not the smallest irony in the complex
issue of Jewish self-transformation in its Zionist version.
33. In a 1986 interview, Appelfeld protested
against his reputation in the minds of English-speaking readers as the author of novels
about the assimilated Jews in the Shoah: "I've published ten novels and five
collections of short stories in Hebrew plus a volume of essays. There are many other
manuscripts in progress. The five novels translated and published in America thus far
happen to deal with assimilated Jews. . . . But they are not my only Jewish subjects. . .
. I am also working on stories of Jewish life in eastern Europe sixty or seventy years
ago. And I have done three novels on the lives of Jews living in the Middle Ages."
Cohen, Voices of Israel, 133. Yet in the same collection of interviews, Yehuda
Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, and Amos Oz all refer to Appelfeld as notable primarily for his
portrait of the world of assimilated Austro-German Jewry on the eve of the Shoah, so
irrespective of the quantitative injustice of such a judgment, it clearly echoes more than
merely the accidents of translation into English.
34. Robert Alter, "Mother and Son, Lost
in a Continent," New York Times Book Review, November 2, 1986, pp. 1, 34-35.
35. On this theme, see Steven E. Aschheim, Brothers
and Strangers: The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800-1923
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983).
36. Austrian Jews had long been in the habit
of vacationing at resorts that were Judenfreundlich [hospitable to Jews], less out
of any particular "clannishness" or desire to remain exclusively among their own
kind, than as a consequence of being barred from numerous other spas. George Berkeley
quotes a proclamation by the mayor of Maria Tafel, one of these spa towns, issued in July,
1920: "It has been repeatedly observed that Jews are finding lodgings and meals in
Maria Tafel. Owners of hotels, coffee houses, and inns are requested not to cater to Jews.
. . . Maria Tafel is the most famous health resort in Lower Austria and not a Jewish
temple." Berkeley adds that "an-
other resort community, Erfinding,
decreed that no Jew could stay in the town for more than twenty-four hours."
Berkeley, Vienna and Its Jews: The Tragedy of Success (Cambridge, Mass.: Madison
Books / Abt Books, 1989), 158.) In 1922, in order to be permitted to stay overnight in the
resort town of Mattsee, near Salzburg, Arnold Schoenberg was asked to produce a
certificate of baptism to counter charges that he was a Jew. Although Schoenberg had
converted to Lutheranism in 1898, the incident at Mattsee, along with others of a similar
character, acted as a catalyst for the composer's return to Judaism. Robert S. Wistrich, The
Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989),
630-32. Thus, no matter how assimilationist, or how eager to deny their identities, long
before the date of the novel's actions, vacationers in a place like Badenheim would have
been sufficiently conscious of being Jews to have chosen (or been indirectly forced) to go
to a resort that was ready to accept them. Moreover, Appelfeld is fully aware of these
details and freely uses them in his other novels. The Age of Wonders, for example,
opens with the twelve-year-old narrator's memory of when he and his mother were suddenly
expelled from the vacation resort where they were spending the summer of 1938 by
37. Aharon Appelfeld, Badenheim 1939,
trans. Dalya Bilu (Boston: David R. Godine, 1980), 147. Future references are to this
edition and are acknowledged in the body of the text.
38. Gabriel Josipovici, "Silently
Mending," Times Literary Supplement, November 19, 1982, p. 1269. Josipovici
makes his comment in a review of Appelfeld's The Age of Wonders, but his
description applies equally to Badenheim 1939, both in its accuracy and in its
blindness to how Appelfeld actually achieves his commendable discretion.
39. For a powerful, but I think finally
unpersuasive, statement of the opposite point of view, see Philip Roth's justification for
Appelfeld's strategy: "In your books, there's no news from the public realm that
might serve as a warning to an Appelfeld victim, nor is the victim's impending doom
presented as part of a European catastrophe. The historical focus is supplied by the
reader, who understands, as the victims cannot, the magnitude of the enveloping evil. Your
reticence as a historian, when combined with the historical perspective of a knowing
reader, accounts for the peculiar impact your work hasfor the power that
emanates from the stories that are told through such very modest means. Also,
dehistoricizing the events and blurring the background, you probably approximate the
disorientation felt by
people who were unaware that they were on
the brink of a cataclysm." Philip Roth, "A Talk with Aharon Appelfeld," New
York Times Book Review, February 28, 1988, p. 28.
40. Thomas Flanagan, "'We Have Not Far To
Go'" The Nation, January 31, 1981, p. 122.
41. See, for example, Irving Howe,
"Novels of Other Times and Places," New York Times Book Review, November
23, 1980, pp. 1, 40-41.
42. Appelfeld himself has emphasized a
spiritual affinity with Kafka, both the fiction writer and the diarist, and admirers like
Philip Roth have stressed the pertinence of an Appelfeld-Kafka connection. Roth,
"Talk with Aharon Appelfeld," 1, 28. It seems to me, however, that Kafka
actually underdetermines the meanings and emotional resonance of a story, thereby
making it hauntingly (re) interpretable as the reader is driven to work out its
significance in new contexts. But the central place of the Shoah in Appelfeld's fiction,
its function as a kind of negative sublime exceeding representation but drawing all of the
local meanings into its darkness, has precisely the opposite effect from Kafka's uncanny
openness to contradictory readings.
43. Idris Parry considers these similes as
part of Appelfeld's technique of showing us "people who will believe what they want
to believe, not what the evidence suggests," and aptly describes the novel's scenes
as "created like a series of sharp perspectives in a model theatre." Parry,
"The Voices of Sickness," Times Literary Supplement, November 20, 1981,
44. Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday,
trans. Cedar Paul and Eden Paul (London: Cassell, 1987), 285. For an Italian parallel to
the theme of Jews deliberately ignoring a tightening net of anti-Semitic decrees, see
Giorgio Bassani's masterful novel, Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini (Torino: Einaudi,
1962), translated into English by Isabel Quigly as The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
(London: Faber and Faber, 1965).
45. George Clare, Last Waltz in Vienna: The
Destruction of a Family, 1842-1942 (London: Macmillan, 1981), 154.
46. It is only fair to point out that even in Badenheim
1939 there are occasional glimpses that a more complex and nuanced relationship to the
characters is imaginable by the narrator. Apparitions like the old rabbi who suddenly
materializes in the town just before the mass deportations, or the emaciated twins who
present uncannily ritualistic recitations of Rilke, come close to being figures of
sufficient resonance to elicit the kind of solicitude and affective sympathy that the rest
of the novel is reluctant to provide. But in his very integrity, the rabbi serves
principally to make evident how far the
vacationers have strayed from any contact
with Jewish tradition, while the twins' performance represents the kind of spiritually,
and ultimately, physically self-destructive fascination that Austro-German high culture
held for educated Jews. Nowhere does Appelfeld's sympathy, even when it alights on a
particular character, bring with it a noticeable mitigation of his contempt for the
decisions, daily habits, and cultural values of the assimilated Austro-Jewish community.
47. See Berkeley, Vienna and Its Jews,
266-97, for a description of Eichmann's methods and a tabulation of Jewish emigration from
Austria. Norman Bentwich, who was the Attorney General for Palestine from 1920 to 1931,
was in Vienna in the days of the Anschluss and has written a vivid account of
"the savagery, the persecution, and the despair" with which the community was
stricken. He describes "the vast queues that gathered outside the consulates of
possible 'host' countries: the United States, South America, the United Kingdom, France,
Belgium, Holland. The queues stretched for miles and were subject to constant
attack." Bentwich, "The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Austria,
1938-1942," in Josef Fraenkel, ed., The Jews of Austria: Essays on their Life,
History, and Destruction (London: Vallentine, Mitchell, 1967), 468.
48. The number of Austrian Jews granted visas
by other countries is shockingly small: Britain let in 31,000 and another 9,000 reached
safety in British Palestine; the United States admitted just over 28,000, China 18,000,
Belgium over 4,000, Australia and New Zealand together 1,900, and Canada 82. (These
figures are cited in Berkeley, Vienna and Its Jews, 282.) One of the most detailed,
and depressing studies of the reluctance of the United States to do anything to help
Europe's Jews is David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the
Holocaust, 1941-1945 (New York: Pantheon, 1984).
49. In one of his best stories,
"1946," Appelfeld has a wonderful argument between two survivors temporarily
sheltered in a Displaced Person's Camp in southern Italy in which the failure of
assimilation is acknowledged, but the blame for it is put on the Aryans, not the Jews.
Against this view is a kind of simple-man's, homespun, Fackenheim-like argument that only
a return to traditional Jewish religious custom can make sense after the Shoah has made
clear the catastrophic failure of other paths: "'An assimilationist is what I
aman assimilationist born and bred.' 'Your success has been rather limited,
if you don't mind my saying so.' 'Correct, but through no fault of my own. I did what was
required of an assimilationist. . . . You would like me to proclaim to the world that
assimilation has failed. From now on,
every assimilationist will put on
phylacteries and pray every morning.' 'That would be an honorable position of a sort, in
my opinion.'" "1946" trans. Dalya Bilu, Jerusalem Quarterly, no.7
(Spring 1978): 127. In many ways, "1946" can be read as a kind of inverse Badenheim
1939, but without the later novel's allegorical structure or coolly mocking narrative
tone. "1946" is a prosaically realistic tale with a complex and variegated set
of characters. The story concerns a group of Jews who survived the Shoah primarily by
hiding in the forests of eastern Europe and are now waiting to get to Australia or, if
necessary (since many of them are reluctant to go there), to Palestine. Perhaps because it
is set after the genocide and thus is "narratable,'' Appelfeld can let himself
describe different types of Jews more convincingly than in his pre-Shoah settings. Nothing
in "1946" serves as a warning or a prefiguration of future events, and its irony
(about Zionism as well as assimilationism) is fully earned by the characters' own
behavior. The story even ends with the arrival of the ship that will take them all to
Palestine, as part of the still illegal aliyah, thus exactly paralleling, but in a
positive sense, the train awaiting the vacationers at the end of Badenheim 1939 .
50. Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of
51. Ruth R. Wisse, "Aharon Appelfeld,
Survivor," Commentary, vol. 76, no. 2 (August 1983): 74-76.
52. I owe this phrase to a subtle, if
ultimately hostile reading of this chapter by an anonymous reviewer for the journal Common
53. This motif is so central to Appelfeld's
vision of Austro-German Jewry that it figures in almost every one of his novels on the
theme. As an example, consider the similarity between the passage from Badenheim 1939
quoted in the text and the following formulation from The Age of Wonders (trans.
Dalya Bilu [Boston: David R. Godine, 1981], 163-64): "Since nobody knew that these
were the last days in this house, on this street, and behind the grid of this lattice . .
. since nobody knew, everyone buried himself in his own affairs as if there were no end to
this life . . . even when everything teetered on the edge of the abyss."
54. Roth, "Talk with Aharon
55. One of the strengths of recent studies
like Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final
Solution in Poland (New York: Harper Collins, 1992) and The Path to Genocide:
Essays on Launching the Final Solution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992) is
how clearly they show the crucial role of individual decisions and choices in carrying out
4 Backshadowing and the Rhetoric of Victimization
1. Aharon Appelfeld, The Immortal Bartfuss,
trans. Jeffrey M. Green (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), 107. The depiction of the
money-grubbing, petty Jews in this novel succeeds in undermining the Israeli desire for
"positive" heroes without succumbing to the same allegorical reductiveness as Badenheim
because in Bartfuss, and in other stories set in contemporary Israel, the Shoah has
already occurred and the characters (who often lived through it directly), as well as the
author and reader, know about the genocide. Consequently, the Shoah cannot serve as a
privileged focus of knowledge by which we can judge the characters and their actions
without anyone in the book being aware of the terms and criteria of judgment. In Bartfuss,
the Shoah does not function as a guarantor of authoritative judgment precisely because of
its availability to and presence in everyone's consciousness.
2. Alan Mintz, Hurban: Responses to
Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 227-28.
3. Ibid., 228. A basically optimistic
assessment of the ideals and accomplishments of novelists whose work was composed within
the "Palmah" ethos is found in Gershon Shaked, The Shadows Within: Essays on
Modern Jewish Writers (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987), 145: "The
earliest Hebrew writers in Eretz Israelthe majority of them native-born, or
'sabras'were the first children of a culture in formation. Born in the 1920s
and raised on a Hebrew vernacular and a Hebrew literary tradition, they built upon the
foundations for a new society that had been laid by their parents. Most of these young
writers identified with the ideals of the parent generationthe pioneering
elite of the Labor movement. . . . Not without reason were they called the '1948
generation' or the 'Palmah generation,' after the vanguard brigade of the Jewish armed
forces during the 1940s. The 1948 generation was educated to fulfill the pioneer ethos of
their parentsmost were educated according to a curriculum that broke
completely with those that had molded the youth of the heder, the yeshiva, and the
gymnasium. . . . This tendency was marked by an increasing dissociation from religious
traditions and from the social values of the Diaspora . . . [and was marked by an] acute
distaste for the image of the 'Diaspora Jew.'" For a more skeptical, and I think more
accurate assessment, see Robert Alter, "A World Awry," in Times Literary
Supplement, May 3, 1985, p. 498: "'Normalization,' . . . was once an important
plank in the Zionist platform: the Jews, after centuries of deformation in the Diaspora
were to become kekhol ha -
goyim, like all the nations. The
Generation of '48 struggled with this ideal and . . . wrote fiction under its aegis. This
was above all a fiction about life in peer groups . . . [and] the novelists tended to
derive their models of fiction from Hebrew translations of Soviet Socialist realism. . . .
Almost all the characters were young, male, native Israelis . . . baffled by their
historical predicament rather than by their own neuroses. Fiction was thus imagined out of
the center of national life and evinced little interest in anything away from the
4. Shaked, Shadows Within, 18.
5. Haim Hazaz, "The Sermon," trans.
Ben Halpern, Partisan Review, no. 23 (Winter 1956): 171-87. The lines quoted are
from pages 173-75. The story has been reprinted, with a helpful introduction by the
editor, in Robert Alter, ed., Modern Hebrew Literature (West Orange, N.J.: Behrman
House, 1975), 253-87.
6. Hazaz, "The Sermon," 183. See,
however, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi's ingenious but implausibly affirmative reading of "The
Sermon": "This story, written in 1942, can be viewed as a proximate and radical
response to catastrophe. What is being put forward here is a daring proposal for non-Apocalyptic
closure ." Ezrahi, "Considering the Apocalypse: Is the Writing on the Wall
Only Graffiti?" in Berel Lang, ed., Writing and the Holocaust (New York:
Holmes and Meier, 1988), 145-46. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's Zakhor: Jewish History and
Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), 97, quotes from ''The
Sermon" to illustrate a somewhat different argument from the one at issue here, but
its interpretation of the story is much closer to my reading than to Ezrahi's. For an
explicit critique of Yudke's view of Jewish history, see Benjamin Harshav, Language in
Time of Revolution (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993),
7-8. The larger historical questions that Yudka's speech so simplifies are persuasively
analyzed in David Biale's fine study, Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History
(New York: Schocken, 1986).
7. Gershom Scholem, "With Gershom
Scholem: An Interview," in Werner J. Dannhauser, ed. and trans., On Jews and
Judaism in Crisis (New York: Schocken, 1976), 40-41.
8. Emil Fackenheim, The Jewish Return into
History: Reflections in the Age of Auschwitz and a New Jerusalem (New York: Schocken,
9. Jonathan Boyarin, Storm from Paradise:
The Politics of Jewish Memory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 125.
10. Gershom Scholem, "Israel and the
Diaspora," in Dannhauser, ed., On Jews and Judaism in Crisis, 248.
11. Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion: The Burning
Ground, 1886-1948 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 539.
12. This sentence is quoted in The New York
Times, April 3, 1992, p. A9. The prevalence of such a view cannot, however, be
attributed purely to the Israeli right-wing parties. In the Knesset, Menahem Begin liked
to point out that Abba Eban, the liberal ambassador to the United Nations (1948-49) and to
the United States (1950-59), later a minister of education and culture (1960-63) and
foreign minister (1966-74), had also described the pre-1967 borders as "Auschwitz
lines." Quoted in Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust,
trans. Haim Watzman (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), 393.
It is worth pointing out, however, that increasingly there are
encouraging signs suggesting that Israeli political debates are moving beyond a rhetoric
of self-justifying ressentiment . For example, during the Knesset debates on how to
help the Muslims being slaughtered in the "ethnic cleansing" in the former
Yugoslav republics, the memory of the Shoah was regularly invoked, not out of
self-interest but as a reason to assist strangers of a different faith and
historical/ethnic allegiance. Quoted in The New York Times, August 9, 1992, p. Y11.
13. The text of the letters exchanged between
Rabin and Arafat are printed in The New York Times, September 10, 1993, p. A8.
14. I have taken Yaron Ezrahi's description
from an article by Thomas Friedman, "The Brave New Middle East," The New York
Times, September 10, 1993, pp. A1, A10.
15. On the history of the agonizing debates
raised by these questions among Zionist thinkers, see especially, Anita Shapira, Land
and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948, trans. William Templer (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1992).
16. Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the
Translator," in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York:
Schocken, 1969), 70.
17. Aharon Appelfeld, The Retreat,
trans. Dalya Bilu (New York: Penguin, 1985), 62, 74. All further references are to this
edition and are to be acknowledged in the body of the text.
18. Segev, Seventh Million, 109. The
very term yishuv, as Benjamin Harshav rightly notes, is "a loaded word,
meaning 'a stable settlement,' as opposed to the 'Exile' of the 'Wandering Jew.'"
Harshav, Language in Time of Revolution, x.
19. Berel Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi
Genocide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 212n5.
20. Yael Feldman offers just such an
interpretation of Appelfeld's thus far untranslated novel, Michvat Ha'or (Searing
Light) published in 1980. According to Feldman, "this whole novel in fact reads like
a ferocious parody of the Zionist enterprise of re-education, of the attempt to 'baptize'
the survivors as 'new Jews.' . . . At certain moments the distinction between Zionist and
Nazi rhetoric is blurred (as in the repetition of the phrase 'Work is good. Work purifies'
. . . or in the constant talk about the survivors' deformities and blemishes [ moomim,
pegamin ] that need 'correction.')" For Feldman, though, " Searing Light
stands alone in his [Appelfeld's] oeuvre," and she adds the fascinating detail that
"rumor has it that the author forbade any translation of this work.'' Feldman,
"Whose Story Is It Anyway: Ideology and Psychology in the Representation of the Shoah
in Israeli Literature," in Saul Friedlander, ed., Probing the Limits of
Representation: Nazism and the "Final Solution" (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1992), 232-34. But if my reading of Badenheim 1939 and The
Retreat is valid, then the same uncanny parallelism between Zionist and Nazi rhetoric
that dominates Searing Light governs Appelfeld's earlier books about prewar
European Jewry as well. I suspect that because Searing Light deals with survivors,
whereas the characters in Badenheim 1939 and The Retreat presumably will all
be murdered in the Shoah, it has been easier for critics to recognize, and for the
novelist to acknowledge, the bitterness of the book's perspective on Israeli attitudes.
But what is intended as a critique of Zionist contempt in a text set in Israel is
actually the only judgment voiced and given implicit authorial sanction in the novels set
in the final days of Austro-German Jewish existence. Appelfeld simultaneously accepts (in
his "European" novels) and indicts (in his "Israeli" books) a
particularly harsh Zionist interpretation of the psychological and moral worthiness of the
European Diaspora, and he does so without ever confronting that central contradiction in
his thinking. It is as though he has internalized the very attitudes he wants to contest,
because he sees them as the only terms by which to understand the culture that
perished in the Shoah.
21. Gary Saul Morson, The Boundaries of
Genre: Dostoevsky's "Diary of a Writer" and the Traditions of Literary Utopia
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 118.
22. Meir Shalev, The Blue Mountain,
trans. Hillel Halkin (New York: Harper and Row, 1991), 226.
23. I say "probably" deliberately
because, at his best, Appelfeld is a very canny writer, and his relationship to the
rhetoric and ideology of left-Zionism is sufficiently embattled to make it just
conceivable that the parallelisms
I have mentioned also figured in his own
awareness while he was writing The Retreat . But if this is so, he has been
extremely careful to cover his traces, and none of the reviews that I have read interpret
the novel as anything other than a critique of Austro-Jewish self-hatred in the period
just before the Shoah.
24. The term "semiotic totalitarian"
was coined by Gary Saul Morson in Hidden in Plain View: Narrative and Creative
Potentials in "War and Peace" (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987).
25. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish
History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), 98.
26. There are too many well-known instances of
this phenomenon for me to make any example truly representative. But the American-born
painter R. B. Kitaj's First Diasporist Manifesto (London: Thames and Hudson, 1989)
can serve as an instructive instance of the most common tendencies. Kitaj, born in 1932,
has become increasingly aware of his Jewishness but sees it almost exclusively as defined
by the Shoah. Kitaj regards himself as a kind of "survivor" who identifies with
"menaced Jewry," and links the alienation of modern artists to the fate of the
Jews. Similar identifications, although formulated with more subtlety, have marked some of
the most impassioned texts by writers like Susan Sontag and George Steiner. Finally, at
the extreme of self-aggrandizement, there is a volume like the Canadian poet Irving
Layton's Fortunate Exile (Toronto: McClelland and Stuart, 1987), in which "the
Jews' unique and tragic encounter with history" serves largely to validate the
author's claims for his own historical importance. I discuss Layton's collection from this
perspective in ''Usurpations: A Poetics of Catastrophe and the Language of Jewish
History," TriQuarterly, no. 79 (Fall 1990): 207-19.
27. David Evanier, "Invisible Man: The
Lynching of Yankel Rosenbaum" New Republic, October 14, 1991, pp. 21-22.
28. Kristallnacht was ably defined by
one letter writer to The New York Times, who had witnessed it directly, as the
beginning of "the physical and institutional destruction of the Jewish community by
the political power of the state." The writer goes on to say that "however ugly
were the anti-Semitic slogans and the assaultive behavior of people in the streets [during
the Crown Heights riots] . . . one thing that clearly did not take place was a
Kristallnacht." Letter by Henry Schwarzschild, New York Times, October 5,
1991, p. A18.
29. Similarly, on October 29, 1992, when
seventeen-year-old Lemrick Nelson, Jr., was acquitted of all charges in the murder of
Rosenbaum, the Hasidic and black communities were united in the conviction that the whole
trial was determined by racist motives. But for the one group, Nelson's initial
arrest and trial was the result of
collusion between a corrupt police force and a suborned city medical examiner's office
eager to find a "black sacrificial lamb"; for the second group, the teenager's
release was seen as due largely to the jury's anti-Semitism and fear of mob violence. An
official report of the Crown Heights episode, commissioned by New York Governor Mario
Cuomo and overseen by Richard Girgenti, the state's Director of Criminal Justice,
concluded that the entire city administration, including the Mayor David Dinkins, Police
Commissioner Lee P. Brown, and top police commanders, were all at fault for not preventing
the escalation of violence. The report also blamed Nelson's complete acquittal on inept
police procedure in handling the evidence against him, and prejudicial "statements
and demeanor" by the presiding judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Edward
Rappaport. Racism, the report concluded, was not a major issue in the jury's verdict. New
York Times, July 21, 1993, pp. A1, B10.
30. For a history and internal logic of the
theme of the victim-turned-oppressor, see Michael AndrÃÂ© Bernstein, Bitter Carnival:
Ressentiment and the Abject Hero (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
31. A. B. Yehoshua, Between Right and
Right, trans. A. Schwartz (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981), 17.
32. For example, an anonymous African American
senior at the University of California, Berkeley, told the local campus newspaper that he
had participated in the April-May 1992 riots that followed the acquittal of the four Los
Angeles police officers in the Rodney King beating case. He "confessed to beating up
innocent white bystanders after the King verdict was announced. 'I admit I've beaten up
so-called "innocent" white people this weekend[they've] never
owned slaves, but [they're] reaping the benefits of [their] ancestors,' he said. 'I have
no guilt,' he added. 'How else can you learn how it feels to have shit done to you just
because of the color of your skin?' he asked." Kim Balchios, "Searching for
Justice," Daily Californian, May 5, 1992, p. 2.
33. Gush Emunim (The Block of the
Faithful) is among the most powerful of the militant orthodox movements dedicated to
expanding Israeli settlements throughout the greater territory of Biblical Israel. One of
its official slogans is af sha'al (not an inch), which aptly summarizes the group's
position on any negotiations involving territorial compromise. Baruch Goldstein's rampage
occurred on February 25, 1994, at a mosque in Hebron.
34. Robert Alter, "Deformations of the
Holocaust," Commentary, February 1981, 49. Emphasis mine.
35. Lawrence L. Langer, Holocaust
Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 59.
37. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz,
trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Macmillan, 1961), 79. I have included the original Italian
phrasing in order to make clear that Levi does not believe that the world of the Lager
unmasks fundamental human traits, always present but normally kept hidden beneath a
fragile layer of quotidian civility. Levi, Se questo ÃÂ¨ un uomo, in Opere
1 (Turin: Einaudi, 1987), 88.
38. Sylvia Plath, "Daddy," in The
Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 223. It is, no
doubt, only fair to point out that a different reading of the poem would emphasize its
rhetoric as the re-creation of a child's distorted visionthe language of a
child who grew up in America during the war and internalized American propaganda images.
But such a reading, defended to me most forcefully by my colleague, Alex Zwerdling, still
seems to me ultimately unpersuasive.
39. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, ed. Thomas C. Moser (New York:
Norton Critical Editions, 1968), 197, 130-31.
40. Ezrahi, "Considering the
41. Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi
42. Caryl Emerson, "Bakhtin and Women: A
Non-Topic with Immense Publications," an unpublished paper the author generously
showed me in manuscript.
43. Michael Frayn, Constructions
(London: Wildwood House, 1974), no. 205, no pagination.
44. Michael R. Marrus, "The Use and
Misuse of the Holocaust," in Peter Hayes, ed., Lessons and Legacies: The Meaning
of the Holocaust in a Changing World (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press,
45. Frayn, Constructions, no. 26.
5 Sideshadowing and the Principle of the Insufficient Cause
1. Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914,
and on Russia on August 6; the British and French responded by declaring war on Austria on
August 12. Other combatants continued to join in the conflict at later dates, as, for
example, the Belgians, who waited until August 28.
2. The Collateral Campaign ( Parallelaktion
) is entirely Musil's own invention and serves as a wonderfully comic device that allows
the novel to examine the leading political, social, artistic, and intellectual currents of
war Austria by letting them compete for
dominance in the campaign's search for a national slogan.
3. Victoria Yablonsky, "Ambiguous
Visions: Ulrich's Inner States in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, " Ph.D. diss.,
Columbia University, 1985, p. 32.
4. "Also ich bin ÃÂ¼berzeugt, daÃ
fast jeder Mensch heute unser Zeitalter fÃÂ¼r das geordnetste hÃÂ¤lt, was es je gegeben
hat . . . daÃ der Geist der Neuzeit eben in dieser grÃÂ¶Ãeren Ordnung liegt
und daÃ die Reiche von Ninive und Rom an irgendeiner Schlamperei zugrunde gegangen
sein mÃÂ¼ssen. Ich glaube die meisten Menschen empfinden so und setzen stillschweigend
voraus, daÃ die Vergangenheit zur Strafe vergangen ist, fÃÂ¼r irgendetwas, das
nicht in Ordnung war."
5. "Nichts ist in der Diplomatie so
gefÃÂ¤hrlich wie das unsachliche Reden vom Frieden! Jedesmal, wenn das BedÃÂ¼rfnis
danach eine gewisse HÃÂ¶he erreicht hat und nicht mehr zu halten war, ist noch ein Krieg
6. "Es hatte damals gerade eine neue Zeit
begonnen (denn das tut sie in jedem Augenblick). . . . Es war eine bewegte Zeit, die um
Ende 1913 und Anfang 1914. Aber auch die Zeit zwei oder fÃÂ¼nf Jahre vorher war eine
bewegte Zeit gewesen."
7. Joseph Roth's Radetzkymarsch (1932)
is probably the best-known Austrian novel that deals with the collapse of the Habsburg
Empire. Unlike Musil, Roth foreshadows the war at every opportunity, usually in an
extraordinarily overwrought rhetoric. For example, at the regimental summer fÃÂªte that
takes place almost at the novel's end, a messenger arrives to interrupt the dancing with
news from headquarters. The atmosphere, predictably enough, is tense with the electricity
of a summer storm, and the horseman's approach is described as taking place amid
"flickering white sheet-lightning and darkened by purple clouds" (umflackert von
weiÃen Blitzen und von violetten Wolken umdÃÂ¼stert). As the Colonel tears open
the message, the footman "could not control his suddenly trembling hand" (konnte
dennoch nicht seine plÃÂ¶tzlich zitternde Hand beherrschen). The news, of course, is the
report of Franz Ferdinand's assassination, and in the footman's mind there is a
"supernatural connection" (ÃÂ¼bernatÃÂ¼rlicher Zusammenhang) between the
thunder and lightening breaking out all around him and the dreadful news from Sarajevo.
Roth, Radetzkymarsch (Berlin: Gustav Kiepenheuer, 1932), 512-14. The enormous
critical as well as popular success of the book is evidence of how deeply wedded readers
are to the conventions of fore- and backshadowing that Musil is deliberately seeking to
8. "GrÃÂ¶Ãenteils entsteht
Geschichte aber ohne Autoren. Sie entsteht
nicht von einem Zentrum her, sondern von
der Peripherie. Aus kleinen Ursachen. . . . Der Weg der Geschichte ist also nicht der
eines Billardballs, der, einmal abgestoÃen, eine bestimmte Bahn durchlÃÂ¤uft,
sondern er ÃÂ¤hnelt dem Weg der Wolken, ÃÂ¤hnelt dem Weg eines durch die Gassen
Streichenden, der hier von einem Schatten, dort von einer Menschengruppe oder einer
seltsamen Verschneidung von HÃÂ¤userfronten abgelenkt wird und schlieÃlich an eine
Stelle gerÃÂ¤t, die er weder gekannt hat, noch erreichen wollte."
9. "'Wissen Sie, daÃ ich vom Kopf
his zum FuÃ erschauere, wenn ich ihn sehe? Er erinnert mich an den Tod!' 'Ein
ungewÃÂ¶hnlich lebensfreundlich aussehender Tod. . . . ' 'Aber mich ergreift eine Panik,
wenn er mich anspricht . . . Mich beschleicht eine unbeschreibliche, unbegreifliche,
traumhafte Angst!' "
10. Wolfdietrich Rasch sees the
juxtapositioning of characters, plot motifs, and ideas as central to Musil's compositional
technique. See Rasch, Ãber Robert Musils Roman Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften
(GÃÂ¶ttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1967) and his essay "Musil: 'Der Mann ohne
Eigenschaften,'" in Benno von Wiese, ed., Der deutsche Roman: Vom Barok bis zur
Gegenwart (DÃÂ¼sseldorf: A. Bagel, 1963), 2:361-419. GÃÂ¶tz MÃÂ¼ller's Ideologiekritik
und Metasprache in Robert Musils Roman 'Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften ' (Munich: W.
Fink, 1972) usefully analyzes how Musil's juxtaposing various discourses discredits
characters like Arnheim or Leinsdorf who use ideas for self-assertive and ideologically
tendentious reasons. Philip Payne also comments on Musil's "provocative juxtaposing
of material. (A chapter which explores the inner world of Arnheim, for example, is
followed by one which recreates the mood of Moosebrugger in his prison cell)." Payne,
Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities": A Critical Study (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1988), 101.
11. For a description of how Graf Leinsdorf
and Diotima conceive of the membership of the Collatoral Campaign, see chapter 24, pp.
98-103; 1:139-44. Wilkins and Kaiser needlessly reverse Graf Leinsdorf's word order and
translate the catch-phrase as "culture and capital," wherever it occurs in the
novel. Their decision distorts the hierarchy of values made evident in the German wording.
12. "Denn wenn diese Art Leute im
Deutschen Reich auch noch nicht obenauf waren . . . [ein GerÃÂ¼cht flÃÂ¼stert
daÃ] dieser Sohn . . . sich auf eine Reichministerschaft vorbereitete. Nach der
Meinung des Sektionschefs Tuzzi war dies freilich ganz und gar ausgeschlossen,
auÃer es ginge ein Weltuntergang voran." (For although people of this sort
were not yet quite on
top in the German empire . . . this son .
. . was preparing to take on a position as a minister of the Reich. In Permanent Secretary
Tuzzi's opinion this was of course utterly out of the question, unless preceded by a world
cataclysm.) (96; 1:136)
13. Hannah Hickman, Robert Musil and the
Culture of Vienna (London: Croom Helm, 1984), 133.
14. "Er kÃÂ¤:mpfte um seine
15. "Ein Jahr Urlaub von seinem
16. "Einen . . . bewuÃten
17. "Etwas . . . daÃ man
MÃÂ¶glichkeitssinn nennen kann. . . . Ein mÃÂ¶gliches Erlebnis oder eine mÃÂ¶gliche
Wahrheit sind nicht gleich wirklichem Erlebnis und wirklicher Wahrheit weniger dem Werte
18. Among the classic critiques of die utopian
impulse along these lines are Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France,
and both the journalism and the fiction of Fyodor Dostoevsky, especially The Possessed
and The Diary of A Writer . Valuable discussions can also be found in Karl Popper, The
Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 vols. (London: Routledge, 5th rev. ed., 1966) and The
Poverty of Historicism (London: Routledge, corrected ed., 1961); Friedrich von Hayek, The
Road to Serfdom (London: Routledge, 1944); Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the
Millennium (London: Secker and Warburg, 1957); Leo Strauss, On Tyranny: Including
the Strauss-KojÃÂ¨ve Correspondence, ed. Victor Gourevitch and Michael Roth (New
York: Free Press, 1993); Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York:
Harcourt, Brace, 1951) and On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963); Isaiah Berlin, Against
the Current (New York: Viking, 1980) and The Crooked Timber of Humanity (New
York: Knopf, 1991); Jacob Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (London:
Secker and Warburg, 1952) and Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase (London:
Secker and Warburg, 1960); Sylvia L. Thrupp, ed., Millennial Dreams in Action (New
York: Schocken, 1970); Melvin J. Lasky, Utopia and Revolution (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1976); Gary Saul Morson, The Boundaries of Genre: Dostoevsky's Diary
of a Writer and the Traditions of Literary Utopia (Austin: University of Texas Press,
1981) and Hidden in Plain View: Narrative and Creative Potentials in "War and
Peace" (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987); Bernard Yack, The Longing
for Total Revolution: Philosophical Sources of Social Discontent from Rousseau to Marx and
Nietzsche (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).
19. I offer a detailed analysis of how just
such a certainty led one noted writer, Ezra Pound, to embrace Italian fascism in The
Tale of the Tribe: Ezra Pound and the Modern Verse Epic (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1980).
20. For an interesting discussion of the link
between parodic and utopian thinking in three of the century's most important German
novelists, see Manfred Sera's Utopie und Parodie bei Musil, Broch und Thomas Mann
(Bonn: H. Bouvier, 1969).
21. "DaÃ wahrscheinlich auch Gott
von seiner Welt am liebsten im Conjunctivus potentialis spreche . . . denn Gott macht die
Welt und denkt dabei, es kÃÂ¶nnte ebensogut anders sein."
22. The study of Musil's NachlaÃ
has become both one of the most contentious and specialized areas of Musil scholarship.
Useful contributions to the debates about the status of the NachlaÃ include
Uwe Baur and Elisabeth Castex, Robert Musil: Untersuchungen (KÃÂ¶nigstein, Taunus:
Athenaum, 1980); Wilhelm Bausinger, Studien zu einer historisch-kritischen Ausgabe von
Robert Musils Roman " Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften " (Reinbek bei
Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1964); Elisabeth Castex, "Probleme und Ziele der Forschung am
NachlaÃ Robert Musils," Colloquia Germanica 10 (1976-77): 267-79;
Wolfgang Freese, ed., Philologie und Kritik (Munich: W. Fink, 1981); Adolf
FrisÃÂ©, "Unvollendet-unvollendbar? Ãberlegungen zum Torso des 'Mann ohne
Eigenschaften,'" Musil-Forum 6 (1980): 79-104; Wolfdietrich Rasch, Ãber
Robert Musils Roman Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (GÃÂ¶ttingen: Vandenhoeck and
Ruprecht, 1967); Marie-Louise Roth, Renate SchrÃÂ¶der-Werle, and Hans Zeller, eds., Nachlaund
Editionsprobleme bei modernen Schriftstellern: BeitrÃÂ¤ge zu den Internationalen Robert
Musil Symposien (Bern; Las Vegas, 1981); Eithne Wilkins, "Musils unvollendeter
Roman 'Die Zwillingsschwester,''' in Colloquia Germanica 10 (1976-77): 220-36; Hans
Zeller, "Vitium ant virtus? Philologisches zu Adolf FrisÃÂ©s Musilausgaben, mit
prinzipiellen Ãberlegungen zur Frage des Texteingriffs," in the special number
Probleme neugermanistischer Edition of the Zeitschrift fÃÂ¼r deutsche
Philologie 101 (1982): 210-44. Although a new translation of Der Mann ohne
Eigenschaften, including some of the NachlaÃ, has been announced several
times during the past few years, so far it has not yet appeared in print. Consequently,
English-speaking readers have had to rely entirely on second-hand accounts of Musil's
posthumous drafts and fragments. Although I am far from being an expert in the technical
issues concerning the NachlaÃ, my general sense concurs with Philip Payne's
that "for all their quarrels over the Nachlass . . . scholars agree on one
point: no definitive final version of the novel can be established however hard one combs
through all that Musil wrote." Payne, Robert Musil's "The Man Without
Qualities, " 57. One implication of this situation, however, has tended to go
unremarked: because there is no one, agreed-on ending, all of Musil's different
suggestions and outlines can be read as sideshadows of one anotherlike
the intellectual debates of the published
sections, the possible paths sketched out in the NachlaÃ are choices that
exist only as sideshadows of a never realized, because humanly and logically unrealizable,
23. Hence, the apparent "solutions"
and "transcendences" that seem to be attained by Ulrich and Agathe in their
conversations break down as soon as they return to ordinary society and confront the
counter-pressures of quotidian living. The structural function of Agathe's forging a will
is to motivate the plot to drag them back, in the most demeaning way possible, into the
daily world, as Hagauer's legal responses make Ulrich and Agathe consult lawyers, worry
about a possible trial, etc. But as a motivating device, the forged will is unnecessarily
melodramatic. Far more effective is the simple, low-key way the "fall" from
their insights and intimacies is narrated at the end of one of Diotima's parties: Agathe
is tired, somewhat bored and wants to go homeUlrich would like to join her,
but as various guests keep interrupting his departure to talk to him, he finds himself
constrained by the social world not to leave, and so Agathe, disappointed in him, returns
home alone, while he is dissatisfied with her for leaving early and without him. The world
of Viennese social life by itself already acts as a "test'' of their intimacy and
shows its inadequacy as a real solution. These chapters experiment with what one can call
the "problem of the morning after a transcendent experience." Musil's question
is: what has that experience and its attendant insights transformed in real, everyday
24. For two interesting discussions related to
this theme, see Marike Finlay, The Potential of Modern Discourse: Musil, Pierce, and
Perturbation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), and Thomas Harrison, Essayism:
Conrad, Musil and Pirandello (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
Harrison's study has a number of strengths, but, given its focus, its relative neglect of
Montaigne is especially surprising. I have also benefited from a particularly insightful
essay relating Montaigne, Musil, and Svevo by Dalya M. Sachs, a graduate student at U.C.
Berkeley in a seminar I taught on sideshadowing.
25. "Millionen Toter eines
26. "Was Hagauer spÃÂ¤ter
Vorschubleistung nannte"; "Trotzdem war es wie ein kleiner RiÃ im
Schleier des Lebens, durch den das teilnahmslose Nichts schaut, und es wurde damals der
Grund zu manchem gelegt, was spÃÂ¤ter geschah"; "Das bedeutete also nichts
weniger, als daÃ Agathe schon in dieser Zeit die Absicht gehabt hÃÂ¤tte, sich zu
27. "In dieser Zeit, da der Schutt 'des
vergeblich GefÃÂ¼hlten,' den ein Zeitalter ÃÂ¼ber dem anderen hinterlÃÂ¤Ãt,
BergeshÃÂ¶he erreicht hat, ohne daÃ
etwas dagegen geschÃÂ¤he. Das
Kriegsministerium darf also beruhigt dem nÃÂ¤chsten MassenunglÃÂ¼ck entgegensehen.
Ulrich sagte das Schicksal vorher und hatte davon keine Ahnung."
28. See Leo Bersani, "'The Culture of
Redemption': Marcel Proust and Melanie Klein," Critical Inquiry, vol. 12, no.
2 (Winter 1986): 402, 404: "I speak of an ambiguity which has led some of Proust's
readers to raise the extremely peculiar question of whether or not the text we have is the
one which the narrator tells us, at the end of Le temps retrouvÃÂ©, that he
finally set out to write. . . . Ã la recherche du temps perdu is a
nonattributable autobiographical novel. The experience it records may, it is suggested,
belong to Marcel Proust, or it may belong to a fictional character named Marcel, or it may
belong to a fictional character not named Marcel. Or, finally, it may belong to no one at
all." The essay is reprinted as "Death and Literary Authority: Marcel Proust and
Melanie Klein," in Bersani, The Culture of Redemption (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1990), 7-28.
29. "Der Typus einer Vernunft . . . die
aber solche [Erkenntnisse] zu finden und zu systematisieren strebte, welche dem GefÃÂ¼hl
neue und kÃÂ¼hne Richtungen gÃÂ¤ben, auch wenn sie selbst vielleicht nur bloÃe
PlausibilitÃÂ¤ten blieben, eine Vernunft also, fÃÂ¼r die das Denken nur dazu da wÃÂ¤re,
um irgendwelchen noch ungewissen Weisen Mensch zu sein ein intellektuelles
StÃÂ¼tzgerÃÂ¼st zu geben." From the 1912 essay "Das Geistliche, der
Modernismus und die Metaphysik," in Prosa und StÃÂ¼cke, Kleine Prosa, Aphorismen,
Autobiographisches, Essays und Reden, Kritik, ed. Adolf FrisÃÂ©, (Reinbek bei
Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1978), 989. The essay has been translated as "The Religious Spirit,
Modernism, and Metaphysics," in Burton Pike and David S. Luft, eds. and trans., Precision
and Soul: Essays and Addresses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 21-25. I
have amended the translation in several places.
30. For a fascinating recent exploration of
some of the same issues told from the perspectives of a female protagonist, see Carol
Anshaw, Aquamarine (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1992). The novel opens with a brief
prologue set at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics during the women's 100-meter freestyle swim
competition. We watch seventeen-year-old Jesse Austin lose the gold medal to her rival,
and lover of one night, Marty Finch. In the following sections, each dated July 1990,
three equally possible and richly described future versions of Jesse Austin are depicted.
In one, she has gone back to her small Missouri hometown and settled into an affectionate
but not very stirring marriage, a budding career as a real estate agent, and a not-quite
consummated affair with a local skywriter. In the next, she is a lesbian lit-
erature professor in New York, visiting
her Missouri home in the company of her lover, a glamorous television soap opera actress.
In the third version, Jesse lives in a seedy Florida beach town, running a failing swim
school and trying to cope with little money, two difficult teenage children, a maddeningly
self-satisfied ex-husband, and a friendly but not deeply committed black lover. Many of
the same characters appear in each section, as do numerous aspects of Jesse's own
temperament, and Anshaw manages to make each future convincing as one of the paths Jesse
might have taken after Mexico. By bestowing the narrative attention and energy equally to
each of the imagined destinies, the novel makes certain we read each of Jesse's
counterlives in the light of the other possibilities, and each event is sideshadowed by
the whole dense swarm of parallel circumstances, actions, and thoughts that have been
traced in the course of Aquamarine 's unfolding.
31. Louis Begley, The Man Who Was Late
(New York: Knopf, 1993), 199.
32. "Im Grunde wissen in den Jahren der
Lebensmitte wenig Menschen mehr, wie sie eigentlich zu sich selbst gekommen sind, zu ihren
VergnÃÂ¼gungen, ihrer Weltanschauung, ihrer Frau, ihrem Charakter, Beruf und ihren
Erfolgen, aber sie haben das GefÃÂ¼hl, daÃ sich nun nicht mehr viel ÃÂ¤ndern
kann. Es lieÃ sich sogar behaupten, daÃ sie betrogen worden seien, denn man
kann nirgends einen zureichenden Grund dafÃÂ¼r entdecken, daÃ alles gerade so kam,
wie es gekommen ist; es hÃÂ¤tte auch anders kommen kÃÂ¶nnen."
33. Cynthia Ozick, "Alfred Chester's
Wig," The New Yorker, March 30, 1992, p. 80.
34. "Parce que je n'accompagnai pas mon
pÃÂ¨re Ã un dÃÂ®ner officiel oÃÂ¹ il devait y avoir les Bontemps avec leur
niÃÂ¨ce Albertine, petite jeune fille presque encore enfant." Marcel Proust,
Ã l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs," in Ã la recherche du temps
perdu (Paris: BibliothÃÂ¨que de la PlÃÂ©iade, 1987), 1:615. Earlier in the same
volume, Gilberte briefly describes Albertine herself as "la fameuse 'Albertine.' Elle
sera sÃÂ»rement trÃÂ¨s 'fast'" (503), and although this incident holds a similar
pleasure for the re-reader as the one I have quoted, it is less intense because Marcel is
not directly involved and there is no suggestion that he might have become interested in
Albertine much sooner.
35. In one of the many moments of deep-rooted
affinity that resonate between Ã la recherche du temps perdu and The Man
Without Qualities, Musil's narrator uses a similar image of the beloved being
transformed from one figure amid a circle of friends into the lover's unique object of
desire: "They [ideas] flash upon the mind in a startling way reminiscent of another
recognitionthat of the
beloved who has been merely one girl among the other girls till the moment when the lover
is suddenly amazed that he could ever have supposed any of the others to be her
equal." (DaÃ ihr ÃÂ¼berraschendes Aufleuchten an das der Geliebten erinnert,
die lÃÂ¤ngst schon zwischen den anderen Freundinnen da war, ehe der bestÃÂ¼rzte Freier
zu verstehen aufhÃÂ¶rt, daÃ er ihr andere hat gleichstellen kÃÂ¶nnen.) (719-20;
3:74-75). The same passage also offers an amusing index of the difference between the two
novels, since in Musil the image is used not only as a comment on the nature of desire
but, more important, on the accidental and unexpected ways one often comes upon a decisive
idea when working on a particularly intractable problem in mathematics!
36. "Peut-ÃÂªtre parce qu'elle ÃÂ©tait
ennuyeuse, ou parce qu'elle ÃÂ©tait mÃÂ©chante, ou parce qu'elle ÃÂ©tait d'une branche
infÃÂ©rieure, ou peut-ÃÂªtre sans aucune raisonne." Proust, Ã la
recherche du temps perdu 1:323. For an interesting discussion relating this and
similar passages in the Recherche to the question of "a demonstration of the
failure of hypotheses," see Margaret E. Gray, Postmodern Proust (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992),56-65.
37. James E. Young, Writing and Rewriting
the Holocaust: Narrative Consequences of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1988), 30. Young is speaking here of the difference between the
testimony of a diarist and that of a survivor-memoirist of the Shoah. But his description
accurately distinguishes between any retrospective account and one written at the time
that the events narrated were taking place, whether those events were catastrophes or not.
38. In these comments I am, of course, not
seeking to minimize the role of politics and social history in Ã la recherche du
temps perdu, since events like the Dreyfus case and the First World War are both
clearly integral to the narrative. But it is nonetheless true that the protagonist is only
indirectly caught up in these public crises. Neither event is decisive in shaping Marcel's
consciousness, and they cannot be said either to constitute Marcel's most significant
experiences or to precipitate the narrator's acutest speculations.
6(In Place of a) Conclusion The Unmastered Future
1. The notion of "prosaics" in this sense
was first made explicit by Gary Saul Morson in Hidden in Plain View: Narrative and
Creative Potentials in 'War and Peace" (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1987) and in his "Prosaics:
An Approach to the Humanities," American
Scholar, Autumn 1988, pp. 515-28. It was further developed by Caryl Emerson and Gary
Saul Morson in Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1990). I have both drawn upon and questioned Emerson's and Morson's
Bakhtin-inspired understanding of prosaics, and suggested other directions and issues that
prosaic studies ought to explore in Bitter Carnival: Ressentiment and the Abject Hero
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
2. Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown
Books (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1965), 17-19.
3. "Es gibt kein ethisches Handeln,
sondern nur einen ethischen Zustand," in Prosa und StÃÂ¼cke, Kleine Prosa,
Aphorismen, Autobiographisches, Essays und Reden, Kritik, ed. Adolf FrisÃÂ© (Reinbek
bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1978), 1017. For a suggestive, but unfortunately rather sketchy
discussion of some of the links between Wittgenstein's and Musil's thinking, see Allan
Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein's Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster,
4. I am indebted here to a stimulating letter
from Kenneth A. Bruffee in which he raises a series of important questions about my
earlier account of prosaic ethics in Bitter Carnival: Ressentiment and the Abject Hero
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). See also Bruffee's analysis in Elegiac
Romance: Cultural Change and Loss of the Hero in Modern Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1983). My discussion in this chapter deliberately returns to some of the
formulations I first ventured in Bitter Carnival, but augments and, I hope,
clarifies them further in light of the new context opened up by the theory of
sideshadowing and the concrete example of Jewish history.
5. Amos Funkenstein, "Theological
Responses to the Holocaust," in his Perceptions of Jewish History (Berkeley
and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 306-37.
6. I have taken these sentences from pages
332-33 of Funkenstein, "Theological Responses to the Holocaust."
7. Walter Benjamin, "The
Storyteller," in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New
York: Schocken, 1969), 87. In tracing one writer's attempt to forge a new, radically
idiosyncratic novelistic voice in modern Hebrew, Robert Alter makes a useful distinction
between the European novel's traditional focus on the specific individual and that of
"the Hebrew literary tradition . . . from the rabbinic period onward through its
multiple historical offshoots . . . [which was] inclined to see the individual
as a prototype or spokesman for the
collective." Alter, "Fogel and the Forging of a Hebrew Self," Prooftexts
13 (1993): 9.
8. I owe this phrase to Douglas Abrams Arava
of the University of California Press.
9. Yehuda Amichai, "Tourists," in
Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell, eds. and trans., Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai
(New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 137-38.