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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 08 | volume II | April-May, 1999



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 08April-May, 1999

On the Far Side of Normality

p. 1
Péter Krastzev

    The writers of the “third generation” unanimously acknowledged that imported Israeli tradition could not bring spiritual inspiration to this region. They agreed that Israel is the place where the others emigrated to, so the possibility doesn't even arise. “Irreconcilable motivations, customs, memories”, is how Emi Baruh answers when asked what it is the the sabra (Jew born in Israel) “likes” to recall – who would happily strike from his “selective memory” the grandfather who, without a word of complaint, enlisted for the concentration camps, while – as it transpired from the essays – the same memory could be the keystone to a modern Central European Jewish intellectual's identity. It was once again left to Maxim Biller to express it most succinctly “a young Jew is more scared of his first visit to Israel than of brain-surgery.”

Normality and its Vicissitudes

    Their consent to being Jewish does not manifest itself in allusions and hidden signs but in conscious self-reflection, which leads each writer to a unique conclusion. The revival of history put the spark of heterogeneity back into Jewish intellectual life. Nobody writes about a return to tradition – nor to Israel nor to anything else, but then again it wouldn't be Central and Eastern Europe if the writers – with a few exceptions – couldn't find a comparatively “golden era” onto which to project their ideals as a kind of “retrospective utopia”. For Victor Neumann the multicultural mix of pre-war Banat, where liberal Jews lived together with other peoples in “multiple liaisons” is one such. Elma Softic -Kaunitz indicates a similar, if today clearly unreachable idyll: a Sarajevo which is not inhabited by Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Jews and the rest, but by townspeople living “in multiple liaisons”, who – as she writes – “are killed for being from Sarajevo, not because they're the enemy.” Through the example of her own father, Pinkas, Emi Baruh introduces the tranquil idyll of pre-war Bulgaria, and how Jews were saved in their thousands by a Bulgarian friend and neighbour who they had voted into the pre-war parliament. Làszlу Màrton was probably the first of his generation to start searching for his own place, or the place of the Jews, in the midst of the new societal relations: in 1988 he formulated a theory of the “Hungarian-Jewish community of fate” where he envisaged the sort of process of gradual assimilation, or “assimilation to one another” which had

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