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This gave a queer edge to his acquaintance with her paganism. Somewhere he doubted the fitness of these Jews for this erotic Roman voodoo primitivism. He questioned whether release from long Jewish mental discipline, hereditary training in lawful control, was obtainable upon individual application.
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Unfortunately, and notoriously, he chooses in Mr. In these lines the rhetorical mechanism of racism is laid bare in extraordinarily crude terms. When a group of people are turned into a symbol of certain ideas or emotions, they can no longer be seen as individual human beings; they are condemned to be bearers of abstractions, synecdoches for vice. This is precisely what happens with the only black character in the novel, a pickpocket who notices Sammler observing him at work on the Broadway bus.
To intimidate Sammler, the man corners him in the lobby of his apartment building and exposes himself:.
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He no more spoke than a puma would. What he did was to force Sammler into a corner. Sammler heard the zipper descend. He was directed, silently, to look downward. The black man had opened his fly and taken out his penis. It was displayed to Sammler with great oval testicles, a large tan-and-purple uncircumcised thing—a tube, a snake.
It is especially disastrous that this should take place in a novel that is partly about the Holocaust, because exactly this technique was used by anti-Semites to demonize Jews. What has he got to tell you? His balls are dry. Here again surfaces the structural problem of Mr. As an American Jewish novelist, Bellow tries hard to seek a point of imaginative contact with the Holocaust, but the concerns of the present overshadow the realities of the past.
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Conversely, the sublime spiritual aspirations that Bellow voices in the novel also seem unrelated to what Sammler went through in the Holocaust. To Sammler, this prospect is appealing, not because the Earth has been befouled by the Holocaust, but because it is sultry with the sex cravings of the s. This encounter with the cosmic is absolutely convincing on Bellovian terms, but it makes little sense on Sammlerian ones.
Jews should be Sammlers. A people capable of folly and illusion is one still in love with this world—as Bellow himself incurably was, despite the testimony of this wounded book. Click here for access to comments. Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking.
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We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support. Mr Kirsch offers a characteristically well-considered and thorough assessment of what is in fact the worst novel in a terrible literary career. No author has less legitimate claims to the American literary canon. I predict, moreover, that this claim will have proven over time to be fleeting.
A possibly relevant comment, heard crossing the Columbia campus one rainy night in the 60s,just after the second moonwalk:. This reminded me of a Brent Staples piece that went into some depth about his own attitudes toward Bellow and his work, including Sammler:. This in a very short novella that takes the form of a diary. Not all Holocaust survivors are saints. A lovely reading and the beginning of a good conversation.
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Among many things The Holocaust means to my generation of American Jews is the sympathy of the gentile world that defeated the Nazis, a sympathy we did nothing to earn but which we consciously and unconsciously worked to our advantage. You have hit upon the false step Bellow has taken in Mr. I think it could have worked if Bellow had been aware of what he was doing. Earl, I looked up your novel and will want to read when it appears on kindle.
erprodleagacyc.cf I just asked kindle to issue it on their digital device. The Holocaust is a big issue, very.
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My speech at my Bar Mitzvah was about it and said what the congregation wanted to hear. I am an Israeli.
I spent a year in the IDF. I wept with the sirens on Yom HaShoah. I got out of the IDF without having or being killed which is a genuinely human accomplishment. If the Jewish People is a family, the victims deserved to be mourned. The Holocaust was a unique trauma for a unique, even world historical people.
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As for Bellow, he has the touch of the Russian Nobility to him and his book on Israel is one reason I made Aliyah- thank you for your articles. The holocaust seal within us is somehow something like a birth mark in our souls , a mark which is within us at all times and we are dragging this involuntary seal all along our life span. Your comment may be no longer than 2, characters, approximately words.
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Itamar Jobani, Man Holding a Child , Courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery. Access 12 comments. Brukhes says:. Carol Zemel says:.