An alternate history of the Holocaust, with a sequel already in the works. The German High command, and in particular Adolf Eichmann, at one point seriously advocated something called the Madagascar Plan, in which Jews would not be exterminated but settled on Madagascar. The story at hand proceeds as though this had happened. Hitler rises and there are still death camps, but the Jewish future becomes subtler and more compromised, as various Jews seek appeasement with the Nazis for promise of a homeland. The narrative is told through the points of view of two childhood friends, Solomon Freund, a Jew, and Erich Weisser, a Catholic, whose fathers are partners in a tobacco shop. Both are dreamy, gentle boys; Sol has a mystical bent, while Erich has a special empathy with animals. They grow up, fall in love with the same girl, and are torn apart by the violent currents of history. Erich becomes a Nazi, head of the Canine Corps. Sol, the most important character, becomes a scholar and a bit of a mystic; using the kabbala, he tries to fight off the dybbuk that seeks to possess him. All of this is managed with an exquisite, almost offhand, sense of authenticity. There's a camp doctor, for instance, a beautiful, even rather endearing female, who wants to castrate Sol; she's based on two such historical doctors, both male. And the chronology here is also cunning, as Gluckman and Guthridge bring Erich and Sol and Miriam (the lost love) together again, on the voyage to Nosy Mangabey, an island off Madagascar. Beautifully done, with a dour Jewish humor, but the raison d`etre is a bit obscure. Perhaps the second novel, featuring a battle between Jews and Nazis, will clear things up.
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