The Thorough Earth, and: Falling from Heaven: Holocaust Poems of a Jew and a Gentile, and: Gestapo Crows: Holocaust Poems (review)
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 14, Number 4, Summer 1996
- pp. 152-155
- Additional Information
152 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 (chapters 7-12), and "Reality," 1963-70 (chapters 13-18). Since the gist of the first two pans has been suggested by the preceding paragraphs, I wiD simply add here that in Part Two Felstiner engages, among other things, Celan's irradicable religious sense and spiritual sensibility-and his dark search for some kind of salvation. The uncompromising tension between hope and pain continues as a subject in Part Three, but the movement here is toward minimalism in his craft as in his economy of hope. Hospitalized several times in a psychiatric clinic in his late years, he wrote increasingly enigmatic and cryptic verse, from which, Felstiner points out, "anything can be deduced-mystical encounter or helpless loss." Yet he also traces in Celan's minimalism an unmistakable movement toward religious mysticism and an "unburiable" Jewish spiritual consciousness, a "meridian from modern German to Eckhart to Isaiah." CeIan's visit to Israel and his poems on Jerusalem finally brought him inside the gates; however, this only reinforced his exile. Felstiner's book is bound to become one of the classics of Celan scholarship. Perhaps he has somewhat underrepresented the intrinsically linguistic and aesthetic experimentation and monologic impulses in Celan and slightly overrepresented the biographical, historical, religious, and dialogic elements. His uncompromising decision in this regard is not only understandable, however, but also laudable, since his Paul Celan wiD help to fill missing spaces in the scholarship and readjust attention in the field. No better scholarly monograph on Celan has appeared in this country or abroad. Leonard Neufeldt Department of English Purdue University The Thorough Earth, by Louis Daniel Brodsky. St. Louis, MO: Timeless Press, 1989. 52 pp. $12.50. Falling from Heaven: Holocaust Poems of a Jew and a Gentile, by Louis Daniel Brodsky and WiDiam Heyen. St. Louis, MO: Time Being Books, 1991. 109 pp. $12.50. Book Reviews 153 Gestapo Crows: Holocaust Poems, by Louis Daniel Brodsky. St. Louis, MO: Time Being Books, 1992. 109 pp. $12.50. Memorializing the vanished through art forms such as poetry begs the question "To what end?" Holocaust survivors like Primo Levi gave voice to an imprisoned but impassioned memory in such poems as "The Crow's Song": "I came from very far away / to bring bad news."l His words are the expression of direct personal experience and anguish in reminiscence of the extermination camps. Whether such creative effort is part catharsis and part sublimation of unbearable pain or whether the artistry serves as reminder that the destruction was not complete, the conscious rationale is to give warning to future generations to be alert to the existence of evil. Louis Daniel Brodsky's poems arise from vicarious imagining of the Holocaust experience by an osmotic absorption of survivor accounts and of the relevant historical literature. His work is meant to represent one of the stepping stones of legendary transmission of the Holocaust story from generation to generation by those removed from the immediate trauma of destruction. Brodsky was born in St. louis, Missouri, in the year 1941, at a time when the Final Solution took shape. One may wonder whether America's abandonment ofJews on the name-sake ship St. Louis contributed to the conscience-stricken youngJewish-American poet's taking up the Holocaust theme. In The Thorough Earth, a lengthy poetic prologue deals with a prewar itinerant peddler who is sinking roots in the United States, somewhat of a contradiction of terms. Does the lack of connectedness between the peddler poems and the Holocaust poems that follow in The Thorough Earth, in Falling from Heaven and in Gestapo Crows speak to the reality of an earlier time when American Jewry lacked an awareness of the dangers facing Europe's Jews? Substantively, the verses attempt to articulate the inexpressible through projective identification with victims and victimhood. In Falling from Heaven, Brodsky and William Heyen, a professor of English and a poet of Germanic extraction, alternately attack the Teutonic mentality which valued "mercilessness" and nightmarish realities. With this empathic linking of a Jew's and a Gentile's poetic outpouring, the authors join forces in their reproach of a nation's share in Hitler...