GIDEON by Chester Aaron


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Ostensibly, Gideon is one of the few survivors of the Warsaw ghetto uprising--now purportedly disclosing his past to his children for the first time: a framing device so unconvincing, in dramatic terms, as to make the character's original identity suspect too. But if we never quite believe in the old or the young Gideon, and other characters are little more than mouthpieces either, still the book has integrity: in the persons of Gideon the disaffected teenage smuggler and his principled, proudly Jewish parents--a father plotting resistance against the Nazis, a mother tending ghetto orphans--the conflicts between self-preservation and group-dedication, between truckling (to survive) and self-destruction (to keep a flame alive), are justly and comprehensibly represented. We hear, too, about strengths and weaknesses in the ghetto community; about organizations, social and cultural activities, modes of subsistence. A calendar of events, inserted early on, provides a historical framework. There are grisly, unsensationalized details. Against these, however, the people are abstractions, the scenes generally set-pieces, the dialogue flat. ""My rapport with One-Eye and the gang continued to improve,"" ""tough"" Gideon says of his Polish, Jew-hating allies-in-crime. Then his father, apprehended in the Gestapo search for Gideon, blows himself and his captor up; his mother goes off courageously to Treblinka with her orphans; and Gideon too turns resister. But even the climactic, month-long ghetto uprising has little dramatic punch--and his fate thereafter (escape from Warsaw, capture and shipment to Treblinka, escape and return to Warsaw) is told in short takes and via excerpts from written histories that the adult Gideon supposedly consulted. But if Gideon and his fate are not involving, the situation--responsibily handled and true-to-fact--partially compensates.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1982
ISBN: 1934841625
Publisher: Lippincott