THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE by Ben Stoltzfus


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When Husserl, rejecting neo-Kantism, came upon the phenomenological method of analyzing subjective processes, he had no idea that through Heidegger, and then via the Sartrean melting pot, a new literary genre would be brewed, journalistically dubbed the anti-novel, replete with international practitioners and vociferous apologists, as well as puzzled readers. Professor Stoltzfus' contribution to this intimidating school is a mildly maddening little study of adolescent awakening set in an unidentified European country under Fascist tenancy where the themes of sex, politics, and religion unwind in appropriately deranged fashion, all making de rigueur comments about the breakdown of communication, the fragmentation of reality, and the violence of history. The style has the cinematic immediacy of Robbe-Grillet, the narrative mood-structure of Butor, and, as an alien bonus, a discontinuous aria uttered by one Brother Polycarp, which seems to have leaped right off the pages of A Portrait of the Artist. Within such a welter of conventional ambiguity, one follows noddingly the fate of young Marc as he struggles between the profane enticements of Nadja, a sensual older woman with pseudo-Nietzschean trimmings, and Mara, a teen-age Jewess, pure as crystal (""Love is stronger than hate,"" she tells Marc), ultimately done in by Nadja and sent off in the Nazi cattle cars. Some of the descriptive passages have a dreamy, imagistic flow, alternately lyrical and chilling, and here and there the dialogue is weirdly right, but neither as an evocation of youthful consciousness or allegorical drama does Needle prick flesh and blood.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1966
Publisher: Viking