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October 02, 1970 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-10-02

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-tFriday, October 2,' 1970


Page Five

Friday, October 2, 1970 THE MICH$GAN E~AILY #~age Five


ilest drea
I 'p"
C' " C" "C

ems: From



Jeremy Bernstein, THE
Simon arid Schuster, $7.95.
Nepal has received more at-
tention from the' press in the
last decade than in the pre-
ceeding hundred years. More
than a dozen titles published
since 1960 are cited in the bibli-
ography of Kew. Mere in Ann
Arbor, Prof. Donald Gooch has
published "Picture Talk in
Kathmandu" in the Papers of
the Michigan Academy of Sci-
ence, Arts, and Letters, 1963.
Although much of this interest
is a result of the Everest expe-
ditions mounted. by the Swiss
and British in the 50's, especial-
ly Hillary's successful ascent is
1953, the ultimate- cause is

Nepalese neighbors. The Chinese
occupation of Tibet in 1950 and
the subsequent border skirmish-
es with India in 1962 precisely
defined Nepal's , position as a
buffer state between these two
The credits of Jeremy Bern-
stein, out of Stevens Institute
of Technology in New Jersey,
have an Asimovian range --
Ascent, Elementary particles and
Their Currents, and A Compre-
hensible World. The present
title begins with a readable
synopsis of Nepalese history and
concludes with an account of
the author's trek from Kath-
mandu to Namche Bazar at the
foot of Everest.

Once upon a time .... This
f a m i i a r but anti-historical
phrase begins the book. It was a
wise choice. Nepal today has
made polite bows to the 20th
century, but remains a land
where the magic cloud of faith
veils what we call reality. In
small courtyards and village
squares images of Tantric Bud-
dhism and Hinduism are smear-
ed with thq phosphorescence of
devotional powders. These livid
colors are complemented by the
soft greens of the lichen that
climb the brick walls and mat
the pagoda roofs. I have never
felt quite so isolated from time
as I did in Nepal.
With this in mind one can
forgive the author a few incon-

sistencies His propos
Nepalese evolution of
goda out of sacrificial
contradicted by histor
Kanishka's great pago
2nd century AD near]
(modern West Pakist
the prototype for Chin
Japanese examples an
turn, was derived fr
"Stupa" relic-moundsc
The. implications ofa
7th century Nepaleset
Chinese Buddhism is
odds with Chinese lite
dence of 4th century B
At any rate, Nepales
hardly begins until t
century, when a tribeo
origin assumed contro
valley of Kathmandu. F
point the narrativeP
speed, and the mecha
of political maneuverin
and 19th centuries w
credit to Machiavelli.
a British commentatoe
"The power of the Prig
ister is absolute till he
when it becomes un:
to question the exped
his measures." I do lik
Such insights into 1
affairs of Nepal are rar
scious policy of isola
dictated by a clan 'of
crats that controlled t
try and the monarchy.
ation was intolerable f
especially after the e
Tibet in 1950. A quotet
is worth repeating, "
dom) does not'come (b
forces that will ultima
rupt the freedom itsel

al of a created and encouraged." The
the pa- warning went unheeded. Mr.
altars is Bernstein describes the daring
y. King political coup that restored the
da of the monarchy to power and opened
Peshawar the country. Indian involvement
an)' was was evident.
nese and The book parades an assort-
Ld it, in ment of facts and figures on
rom the modern Nepal. Like the creator
of India. of a Tibetan mandala the au-
a 6th or thor seeks to explain by the ar-
origin of rangement of numbers. Instead
also at of demons and bodhistattvas,
rary evi- he uses airplanes and TB cases.
uddhism. How far does it take4Lus? In Sub-
e history inspector Rana's garden are
the 13th eight (8) varieties of vegetables.
of Indian Alas! Shortly thereafter they
1 of the were consumed by a yak.
From this By far the most enjoyable sec-
picks upJ tion of the book is the account
nizations of the trek itself. Photographs
oul do 8t give some indication of the ter-',
rain that the author and his
In 1850 companions, a French couple,
)r writes, covered. They passed through
ime Min- sub-tropical forest and, rice pad-
e is shot, dies before mounting to a an
necessary 18,000 foot "hillock." (Everest
liency of is 29,000, the highest mountain
.e that. in Europe around 16,000). Those
the early readers who have climbed will
e. A con- identify with this section: those
tion was moments when the effort to
bureau- move one's feet is incredible;
he coun- when the balmy summer day
The situ- one left behind turns to snow
for India, as the altitude increases. Con-
vents in sider here the change in defini-
by Nehru tion in a cup of tea. After The
If (free- Wildest Dreams of Kew I am
to Nepal) happy to report that a place re-
ately dis- mains where such an elemental
f will be pleasure can still be had.

War orphans: A shoddy portrait

M o n i k a Kotowska, THE
SIDE, Doubleday, $4.50.
It is not' particularly diffi-
cult to depict the fact t h a t
children suffer most cruelly
from the effects of war. For
three-quarters of a century, in-
fant victims of battle atrocities
have stared helplessly at us
from unsubtle anti-war photo-
graphs.1 Their unfocused stares
and bloodied limbs might cause
us to believe that war and its
*wounds havet deadened perman-
ently their nascent intellects
and sensibilities. In the last few
decades, two widely-read, chron-
icles of childhood impressions of
the Seeonel World War h a v e
tempered this visual portrayal,
giving us a slight awareness of
the physic adjustments made by
children who built their play-
worlds f r o m the rubble of a
Bliztkrleg or from 'the rumours
of a concentration camp.
These two chronicles are high-
ly divergent: Anne Frank's
diary reports the terrors of Nazi
racism with delicate intelligence.
H e r urban childhood, careful
tutelage, a n d forced isolation
led her to concentrate on the
domestic trivia of. those with
whom she shared two years in
an Amsterdam attic. W h a t
makes the trivia dramatic is the
backtground of round-ups f o r
the Nazi concentration camps,
and the potential, almost immi-
nent, end of Anne Frank's
make-dc normalcy.
Jerry KosinskW s Painted Bird
is a fictional account of t h e
wanderings of a displaced city
4 child who, because of his phys-
ical resemblance to either a Jew
or a Gypsy, is shunted from one
peasant village in Eastern Eur
ope to another during the final
stages of World War II.
The boy receives equal treat-
ment from invaders anq the in-
* vaded; he is bludgeoned and re-
peatedly abandoned. While he
is learning to live. as an out-
cast he witnesses gory tortures,
rapes so violent they lead to the
deaths of their victims, and, as
a repeated motif of the passion-
less'Nazi murders, the charred
remains next to railroad tracks
of those who couldn't survive
their transport to concentration,
The most recent of these
chronicles has affinities w i t h
both the, Kosinski and Frank
'books; it is almost a literary
compromise between them. The
narrators of Monika Kotowska's
The Bridge to the Other Side
are anonymous, fictional sur-
vivors of the Nazi occupation of
Poland. Most of them are young
girls, all of them are city-dwel-
ling children. Some of them,
like Anne Frank, are sensitive
enough to learn an artistic per-
spective and with it consciously
transform a bleak city during a
downpour into an inpressionistic
vista just by trying to "see" iL
Others narrate their own pre-
mature hardening from the re-
ceptivity of childhood to t h e
self - conscious calculation of
adolescense. Among these is a
bored orphan, who, like Kosin-
ski's narrator, learns that to be
protected inevitably leads to be-
ing possessed and so decides to
periodically leave h e r current
governess. She becomes so adept
at her game of adoption and
abandonment that she can an-
ticipate the moment when her
protector will metamorphose in-
to a possessor and can predict
the possessor's reaction to her
announced departure: "Heart-
less . . . heartless, ungrateful
.'I knew it all by rote." She

even composes a prose gallery
of her "good ladies" as testi-
mony to their common human
weakness and her own detached
Kotowska's n a r r a t o r s are
closely related to their literary
predecessors in T h e Diary of
Anne Frank and The Painted
Bird. Some experience the war
indirectly, not understanding
the causes for the behavior con-
fronting them or the causes for
their own behavior. In this re-
spect their infantile psychology
is skillfully constructed. In "Test
Games," for example, the nar-
rator and her "slave," a weak,
and begrudgingly co-operative
playmate, bait The Gray-Hair-
ed One. To the children he is
an eccentric ancient; vulnerable
to their pranks because of his
clandestine, lonely existence in
an apartment attic and his rig-
id stubborness: he has refused
to sign "something or other"
and has made himself the pas-
sive victim of "unidentified as-
sailants" whose a c t s are the
serious pranks of adult war
The narrator invents a game
in which her "slave" plays the
role of the Gray-Haired One as
she becomes the "Unidentified
Assailant." The roles are sel-
dom reversed, until the narrator
experiences first-hand an en-
counter between t h e Gray-
Haired One and the faceless Au-
thorities. T h e child's admira-
tion is excited by the stoicism
of the old man as he shakes off
the taunts of plainclohesmen.
Later, her excitement is heigh-
tened when she gets her first
view of his living quarters:
I was trembling as I cross-
ed his treshold. I was finally
inside his apartment! I ex-
pected that everything inside
would be unusual and it was.
Near the door hung a paint-
ing, large and very colorful.
The old man saw me admire
it. "It's Breughel,"he explain-
ed. "Those people, w h o do
they remind us of?"
He talked like a lecturer I
once heard in school. And he
answered his own question:
"They remind us of our
neighbors. People around us."
I looked at the painting.
The people he was pointing at
had red, ugly, fat faces.
"Y e s. Everything that's
happening in our world we
can f i n d in 'this painting.
What are you looking at? Are
you trying to find me in there
too? Perhaps there, in the
He pointed to a very small
figure that was no more than
a faint silhouette. At t h a t
moment someone threw a
stone against his window.
After the inevitable arrest of
the uncooperative Gray-Hair-
ed One, the narrator insists on
shifting the game roles w i t h
her "slave." From then on. she
plays the Qray-Haired One.
This incident illustrates the
high credibility and artistic
skill of some of Monika Kotow-
ska's chapters. Her children
have the strong a n d healthy
egotism of children. They are
not sentimentally drawn. 'Their
games a r e often attempts to
gain momentary ascendency in
a world dominated by adults,
and this means that peers are
sadistically subjected to the
whims of the strongest child, so
that the conqueror can briefly
experience the electricity of
power. At times there is no self-
fulfilling motivation for their
games; they are merely imitat-
ing adults. The games of the
narrator in "Test Games" have
both these sources.
The incidents themselves are
occasionally striking raw ma-

terial for narrative. "The Pay-
ment Will Be Made on Sunday"
takes its title from the opera-
tions of a later-day Fagan who
teaches his boys to intimidate
passers-by with the loud taunt
"You're a Jew," and to extort
a few pennies for their master
before the authorities overhear.
In "Winning" the narrator's
father and mother beat off a
competing looter for the prize of
a briefcase. When the oppon-
ents meet some week later, we
expect another brawl:
Suddenly I saw him in
front of us. He was walking
toward us, holding a brief .
case, and he was well dressed,
like my father. But I recog-
nized him. He was the tall
man from the store. My fa-
ther looked as if he couldn't
Nremember where he had met
him before. And the tall man
had exactly the same expres-
sion on his face. And then,
both, at the same time, seem-
ed to remember and they
smiled at each other and tip-
ped their hats.
The incident is expertly con-
structed to conceal its punch-
line and to delay the pay-off
for a perfectly-timed moment
of narrative equilibrium.
But a final judgment of Mon-
ika Kotowska's The Bridge to
the Other Side cannot be based
on the narrative raw material
she chose to develop n o r on
the several moments of writing
skill foregrounded by the con-
stant, pale aridity of her style.
The responsibility for the styl-
istic failures of the book should
probably be divided between
Kotowska and h e r translator
Maia Wokciechowska. No doubt
the author strove to compose in
a style simple enough to support
the illusion of child-narrators.
But the attempt is thwarted by
a shifting perspective, from im-
mediate reportage by the child
as he or s h e is experiencing
what is being reported, to the
removed, reflective, and didactic
voice of the same child as adult.
As illustration, here are several
successive paragraphs f r o m
"The voyage inside the shell:"
All my ideas " were limited
by my childishness. I thought
of starving them. Or of beat-
ing them up. After a while,
and with great effort, I be-
gan to p 1 a n tortures. But
w h e n I started to imagine
what the torture would do to
the victim something terrible
happened inside of me.
Man is a flawed creation.
So many things hurt him. Ev-
en revenge, retaliation against
pain, is impossible to accom-
plish painlessly. But as nat-
ural as pain is to Man, so is
hope. It gives him a chance
at survival. Something as sim-
ple as a pink light can change
a room into the inside of a sea
shell. If it were not for the
fact of their voices I would

have found joy in that ...
I was lying down on the
floor covering my ears.
The fast cut is often an effec-
tive technique, but when the cut
combines startling shifts in
narrative perspective with nar-
rative voice, the technique calls
attention to itself. The result
is that the author has lost the
illusion of a child-narrator.
The children in The Bridge
to' the Other Side also report
their stories with an abstract-
ness t h a t belies the distance
and time separating the narrat-
or from the event. The epithet
attributed to one of bier char-
acters can, ironically, be fairly
assigned to Miss Kotowska's
stylistic inexpertise: "He knew
nothing of special effects, the
noise of battle, explosions."
Only a few of the "incidents"
of, this book successfully use in-
direction to depict their nar-
rators. Otherwise, the flatness
of the language, its repetitious-
ness, and the monotonous lack
of perceptive description fail to
create an environment for the
narrator. or a character for the
Perhaps children have very
faint recollection of their sur-
roundings, but the case is likely
just the opposite. Kosinski's
child surroundings are so vivid-
ly described. Granting that Miss
Kotowska's subject matter is
often less grotesque, arid there-
fore inherently not vivid, this
stipulation only puts more re-
'sponsibility on th e writer to
make the unassuming material
take shape for her reader.
Reading The Bridge to the
Other Side is a soporific object
lesson for anyone interested in
the relationship between exper-
imential reality and literary
"realism." In their simplicity
and undramatic structure, Miss
Kotowska's "incidents" would
seem to be first-rate material
f o r a "realistic" collection,
whereas Jerry Kosmski's c o n -
jestion of atrocities, stripped to
their narrative framework, have
all the realism of Madame Tus-
saud's horrors viewed in day-
light. B u t Kosinski boldly
groups his horrors directly be-
fore his narrator's and his read-
er's eyes, directs their atten-
tion to details of actions, so
that the artificiality of the
whole is backgrounded, and then
amasses that detail, through
repetition and variation, to pro-
duce a reaction of revulsion
which, because of its forceful-
ness, creates the illusion of
realism. M o n i k a Kotowska
spends most of her time at an
indefinite distance f r o m her
subject, so that her viewer has
the leisure and perspective to
notice how shoddily s h e has
painted her . landscape, how
carelessly she has dressed her
characters, and how seldom she
has chosen to express their con-
dition memorably.

---Students and Faculty--
Mak'NO Mistake! U
DANCE (This Saturday)
~t was up-tight when I arrived, and
when I Ie4, I was just up!"
9-12:30 $1.50 (Donation)

Today's Writers *
Sewall Oertling has travelled in Nepal and India and is
currently working on a doctorate in Chinese painting. The il-
lustrations are reflections of his trips. Glenn Litton, a doctoral
student in English, is a former law student. His talks with
Kosinski, a former writer-in-residence at Michigan, broadened
his interest in war fiction.



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