Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Lost

I am reading the most amazing book: "The Lost" by Daniel Mendelsohn. A memoir, I suppose; a recounting of the author's efforts to research the history of his Jewish family and the small Polish town of Bolechow from which they came and, particularly, that of his great uncle Schmiel who, along with his wife and four daughters, were exterminated in the Holocaust.

Me? I'm not Jewish... at least not technically. But perhaps, by dint of having a number of close Jewish friends, and having lived in Manhattan for more than half my life, the process of osmosis is transforming me to a degree. Oy.

And I'm saying this why? (I'm sorry, but this line does make me laugh)

I'm saying this because my (goyishe?) fascination with the book only suggests how strong the work really is--sucking in, against his will, this poor Catholic boy who might otherwise just as easily shrug his shoulders and not give a damn about the arcane details of a family of Polish Jews, or care, even, about the Holocaust, other than perhaps tangentially, as a function of how Ronald Lauder ended up owning a $135 million portrait of a woman named Adele by Gustav Klimt, and the probably-abstract trickle-down financial implications of this transaction to me.

Herewith, a brief excerpt:
Not long afterward--perhaps later that same August, certainly by September, 1941--plans for the area's first Aktion, or organized murder of Jews, began taking shape. These actions were scheduled for October. The Bolechow Aktion took place on October 28 and 29, 1941. In it there perished approximately a thousand Jews.

Of those thousand, there is one in particular who interests me.
This is typical of the author's strategy for keeping me from getting to bed last night. I mean, how can you not keep reading? I feel like I'm a big glop of paint on the end of the man's palette knife. He can do with me what he will.

Later, his recounting of the oppression of the Jews by the Greeks around 200 B.C., and their strategy of reading passages not from the Torah, which was then banned, but rather from the Prophets, which was allowed, makes me think about portrait painting.

But because I stayed up all last night reading the damned thing, I'll have to wait until another day to explain.


Anonymous Rick Richman said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. I had the same reaction to the book:

2:58 PM  

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