When Shalom Auslander, a lapsed Orthodox Jew, came out with his wickedly funny memoir “Foreskin’s Lament” in 2007, he was often mischaracterized as a New Atheist. It was clear he shared a similar disdain for religion with atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, but he never declared himself a non-believer.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that some of the same criticisms that met Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about Sept. 11, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” published in 2005, are now being leveled against the new film adaptation. Like the book, the film has drawn strong, often biting rebukes from critics who feel it exploits some of Sept. 11’s most harrowing images—the picture of the falling man leaping to his death, in particular—and universalizes a unique tragedy.
Diane Cole |
Special To The Jewish Week
Masada: the very name of the towering mountain fortress overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea conjures images at once historic, mythic, and symbolic. King Herod built it between 37 and 31 B.C.E. as a royal refuge, and decorated it with splendiferous mosaics. But it is best known as the final refuge of 960 Jewish zealots who, in 73 C.E., committed suicide en masse, rather than succumb to a massacre by besieging Roman soldiers who were part of the army that had already quashed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.
In January 1942, French policemen began a special mission, in collaboration with Nazi officials, to arrest the local Resistance. On their list were dozens of women. They included Germaine Pican, a mother of two, who carried messages between communists in Paris and Rouen; Mai Politzer, a midwife, who dyed her hair black in disguise to type letters for the underground press; and Marie-Claude Vaillant-Coutrier, a photojournalist who wrote articles for a clandestine journal.
That “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious anti-Semitic tract about a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, still has currency in parts of the world today was no deterrent for Umberto Eco. If there was anyone who could get away with a novel about the forged document’s creation, it was Eco. A towering member of Italy’s intellectual elite, he is a man as famed for his works on philosophy as he is for his best-selling novels.
In Amos Oz’s new novel, or more accurately novel-in-short-stories, the sense of dread, of profound existential unease, is unmistakable. No character in Oz’s fictional Israeli village, Tel Ilan, where all the stories in “Scenes from Village Life” are set, is happy. No one is even remotely content with his lot.