Crisply presented in Salemson's translation, Beauvais' novel provides remarkable parallels to Saul Friedlander's recent...

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THE HALF JEW

Crisply presented in Salemson's translation, Beauvais' novel provides remarkable parallels to Saul Friedlander's recent non-fictional account of growing up half-Jewish in Vichy (When Memory Comes). Beauvais' story, however, is twice as dry and less than half as affecting. Forced to move down to the French south in the late Thirties, Jean-Jacques Benoit's father desperately wiggles out of being identified as a Jew; the father's ace-in-the-hole is his son's baptismal certificate, insisted upon at birth by Mme. Benoit's Catholic relatives. To maintain the charade, the elder Benoit must even endure a long, anatomical inspection by a Vichy doctor: he claims that therapeutic surgery,' not ritual, accounts for his un-Aryan circumcised state. But shame and cancer kill papa Benoit shortly thereafter, and after the Allied victory Jean-Jacques pursues an unsatisfying education sentimentale that leads finally--and, in fictional terms, crudely--to a case of venereal disease and the taking of religious vows. Then, however, when J-J goes on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a young Israeli nurse convinces him with a cunning application of body-English (body-Jewish?) that he remains one of the chosen: the half-Jew who has become a non-Jew now becomes a whole-Jew. Sharp and sarcastic in tone, Beauvais is cutting when it comes to ubiquitous French anti-Semitism and now and then delivers some genuine acid wisdom. But ultimately this edgy novel cracks into dozens of epigrams and little more--an intriguing tale, yet strangely devoid of feeling or impact.

Pub Date: April 7, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Taplinger

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980