- The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick
Deutsch, 144 pp, £9.95, November 1987, ISBN 0 223 98142 7
- The Birds of the Innocent Wood by Deirdre Madden
Faber, 147 pp, £9.95, January 1988, ISBN 0 571 14880 8
- The Coast of Bohemia by Zdena Tomin
Century, 201 pp, £11.95, October 1987, ISBN 0 09 168490 0
Cynthia Ozick’s critical writing everywhere expresses a ferocious distaste for the purely aesthetic. The central idea in Art and Ardour, her collection of critical essays, concerns the conflict between the aesthetic and the moral views of literature and of life. She tells the story of a friend’s child coming across a statue of an Egyptian cat deity in a museum. ‘ “I understand,” said the child, “how they wanted to bow down to this cat. I feel the same.” And then she said a Hebrew word: asur – forbidden – the great hallowed No that tumbles down the centuries from Sinai ... ’ Asur: many of her speculations and evaluations seem to say that. A characteristic judgment is that made on Truman Capote, whose work is full of the idea that
[*] Hidden Symptoms is now republished on its own (Faber, 142 pp., £3.50, 25 January 1988, 0 571 15074 8).
Vol. 13 No. 12 · 27 June 1991
From Rodney Pybus
You might have mentioned in your note on the drawing by Bruno Schulz for his story ‘Spring’ which appeared on the cover of the London Review (25 April) that he achieved literary resurrection of a kind a few years ago: the central character of Cynthia Ozick’s brilliant novel The Messiah of Stockholm (1987), a book-reviewer for a morning newspaper, alleges he is the son of Bruno Schulz. Fifty years after the supposed murder of Schulz by the Nazis, the ‘fantasies of submission’ your note alludes to, the painful poignancy of the drawings, are vividly re-created in Ozick’s picture of refugees squabbling over the authenticity of a manuscript of his last, missing work, The Messiah. The novel carries a strongly-drawn self-portrait by Schulz as frontispiece, staring somewhat askance at the potential reader of Ozick’s disturbing fable of dispossession, as central still to our times as the background evoked. Particularly so, given this country’s decision (if that’s the right word) to look for survivors among the Nazis allowed to hide here after the war.
From Editor, ‘London Review’
The Messiah of Stockholm was reviewed in these pages on 4 February 1988.
Editor, ‘London Review’