By Norman Ravvin
Targeting the way in which Jewish background - quite the Holocaust - and culture tell postwar Canadian and American Jewish literature, this article bargains readings of the works of influential writers reminiscent of Saul Bellow, Leonard Cohen, Eli Mandel, Mordecai Richler, Chava Rosenfarb, Philip Roth and Nathaneal West. Norman Ravvin highlights the worries that those disparate writers proportion as Jewish writers in addition to locations their paintings within the context of the wider traditions of mulitculturalism, postcolonial writing, and demanding idea.
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The bedroom scene with Hitler offers the reader a grotesque parable of the movement from the abstract idea to the complicit act, from mere fascination to outright abuse, from Mein Kampfto Mauthausen. If F. has been in flight from the abyss of history in pursuit of ecstatic transcendence, then the diabolic scenario staged in his hotel room halts this flight, bringing into question all modes of thought on which such pursuits are founded. Beautiful Losers is, in these terms, a coimfer-counter-culture work.
Killed a Nazi" (49)Richler's emphasis on unremitting anger at Nazi crimes and on the desire for revenge stands in contrast to a growing area of Holocaust research that focuses on the reception of the Nazi crimes as "trauma" and argues, in modified Freudian terms, for a "work of mourning" that will accomplish the "task of integrating damage, loss, disorientation, decenteredness into a transformed structure of identity, whether it be that of an individual, a culture, or an individual as a member of a cultural group" (Santner, Stranded xiii).
Cohen is playing with fire here, but there is a provocation in his stance that the reader must not miss. With all pious notions of 28 What Sort of Home Is the Past? goodness dispensed with, alongside the insistence that victimization has become "old hat/' though still exciting, he presents a moral predicament that touches us all. Self-denial and self-mortification so central to Catherine Tekakwitha's, Edith's, and the narrator's spiritual progress - are seen to be part of larger projects of dehumanization through submission and surrender.