Despite frequent lapses into overheated prose and murky self-psychoanalysis, this episodic memoir is more involving than...



Despite frequent lapses into overheated prose and murky self-psychoanalysis, this episodic memoir is more involving than not--as Goldberg, a French Jew (b. 1938) whose father died in Auschwitz, chronicles his occasionally bizarre struggle with guilt, Jewishness, his father's memory, and his own self-image. Goldberg grew up steeped in self-hatred, he says--for taking his stepfather's name (Cojot), for being Jewish in anti-Semitic France, for not dying with his father, for becoming his father's over-Oedipal replacement with a doting mother. Result? Restless ambition, the inability to love, and hot-tempered marriage to snub-nosed Marie-France: ""Without knowing it, I took revenge on this sweet, clear-eyed Gentile. . . . I did not see that in marrying a non-Jew I had continued the task of self-destruction. . . . ""Nor was Goldberg's career satisfying: ""Michel Cojot the banker. Was it really me?"" So he then determined to exorcise his guilt/anger by avenging his father; a series of coincidences ""made me believe that my mission on earth was to kill Klans Barbie,"" former Gestapo chief living safely in La Paz. But, despite a successful setup, Goldberg could not pull the trigger: ""I no longer had the wish to kill. I wanted to love at last. But how does one go about it?"" And the search for attachments led Goldberg (now separated) to Israel, where he and his young son happened to board the plane that was hijacked by terrorists to Entebbe: he bravely helped to arrange for the release of some hostages, acted as interpreter, maintained soothing contact with the terrorists. ""I had been given the opportunity to live through a version. . . of my nightmare. Had I lived it well? Could I wake up at last?"" Apparently he could: he went on to speak up against anti-Semitism at his bank, to lay his father's ghost to rest, to give up hate for love--and a psychosomatic hand-disability disappeared. As a psycho-soul-journey, then, this is only intermittently convincing. And Goldberg's self-dramatizing rhetoric often falls flat. But the Entebbe inside-story is fascinating, the angles on French anti-Semitism are disturbing (if unsurprising)--and occasional ironic turns-of-phrase manage to keep the whole package from becoming off-puttingly portentous.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Yale Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

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