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June 22, 1984 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-06-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

54 Friday, June; 22, 1984



1 _.aiiirgli





When cultures collide



' Continued from Page 41

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Holocaust head-on yet because I feel
pose as a novelist is to present my
world as honestly and fairly as I can.
thoroughly inadequate to the task.
"Indeed, very often when you do
First of all, I didn't experience it and I
that sort of thing, the picture you
don't know what moral right I have to
present is not a picture that some
tackle something I did not experience
people like. And so you get attacked
— especially something of that awe-
for it as I have been over and over
some dimension.
again, especially by some of the
"What I've done this far with the
Jewish fundamentalist press in the
Holocaust is to tackle the American
United States and in Israel. But
side of it — that is to say how it led to
that's to be expected. All that means
the creation of the State of Israel —
is that you're doing your job right. In
as I did in The Chosen, and the effect
other words, you're not doing public
of the destruction of an entire Euro-
relations. A novelist is not in the job'
pean branch of an American family
Of public relations.
as I did In The Beginning. But I'm
"I don't see myself as functioning
going to tackle it head-on in the next
in any way differently from any
novelist who is serious about writing
Has Potok noticed the recent
and who isn't just interested in tel-
proliferation of Holocaust memorial
ling a story. There's nothing wrong
centers across the nation and what
with telling a good story, it's just that
does he think of them? "It's not atypi-
I want to do that and something more
cal," he replies. "If Polish Jewry had
with a novel. I'm like any other
been more stable, they would have
writer who chooses a world for him-
done something like this in the gen-
self or herself and explores that
eration after the first pogroms. We're
world. but in order to make the
just doing it in an American style.
reader fully interested in knowing
That is to say big, showy, noisy and
about that world, you have to write
visible. And my feeling is that it is
about it with a measure of passion.
absolutely the right thing to do. Be-
And I certainly have that about my
cause if we don't do it, the world
wants nothing more than to forget
The good news for Potok's many
the Holocaust as quickly as possible.
fans is that he's just finished writing
"The world is very good at forget-
a new book. "It's about a mother and
ting destructions, and the Jew is very
a daughter," he explains, "and it's
good at remembering them. And the
due out this winter 'from Knopf. The
only one who has a moral right to
title is Davita's Harp, and it is set in
make a judgment on whether the
the years between 1936 and 1942.
Holocaust will be remembered or for-
"I'm also hoping to write a
gotten is the Jew, because he paid the
Jerusalem novel," Potok adds.
price. And the Jew will not forget.
"That's one of the things that I really
"I hate the subject (the
hope to do with my life. I think I may
Holocaust). I hate talking to my chil-
start this book with the Sinai War of . dren about it. But we have to keep it
1973 and may take it up to the pre-
alive. That much we owe the dead.
sent day. It's one of the things that's
That's our Kaddish for all those dead.
perking around in the back of my
"People hate it. I hate it. But we
still have to keep it alive. Just be-
"And after that, well, I may do a
' cause it is horrible and nightmarish
continuation of the Davita book. And
doesn't mean we should forget it.
there's something else I want to do
There are certain nightmares we
with Asher Lev. I have some ideas I
should remember. We should re-
want to play around with, and I'm not
member what we're capable of as a
sure yet which one will take me in
species. It's a legitimate subject for
Where does Potok intend to take
As a Jewish writer, what does
Asher Lev in his sequel? "I want him
Potok think of other contemporary
to go on the quest that he promises
American novelists who often write
himself at the end of the book," re-
about Jews and Jewish themes? For
plies Potok. "He will try to discover
instance, Philip Roth? Potok believes
new forms — Jewish forms — and he
that the world of these novelists "is
will attempt to create an aesthetic
essentially the world of individuals
motif for the Holocaust because no-
who are peripheral not only to
body knows what to do with it in
Judaism but to the general culture in
Western art. And that's all I know at
which we live.
this point. That's all I need to get a
"Individuals like those you find
novel started — a central idea. I just
in the early stories of Philip Roth are
let it sit inside of me and sort of bub-
essentially those who are not very
ble. The idea quietly perks, and then
familiar with things Jewish or secu-
when the time is right, it starts wak-
lar. And when you get a mix of this
ing me up very early in the morning.
kind, you will almost always get vul-
And I get fidgety. I know that I've got
garities. It's certainly a legitimate
to start writing it. Although I can
world to explore — and it's certainly
describe the process to you, I don't
a very large world. There are lots of
understand it to this day. And I've
people like that. And much of con-
written a lot of books already. I just
temporary fiction concentrates upon
go with it.
that kind of person — a person who
"I'm going to take the continua-
can't quite find his or her place any-
tion of the Davita story through the
Holocaust. I have not tackled the
"Even Madame Bovary was that

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