NUMBERS by Jakov Lind


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Lind's fiction achieves its power by mediating evil through the random and ordinary and impersonal: not the Kafka hero against the universe, but an intermeshing of the subjectivities of bureaucrats and victims in a horrific context. But in this autobiographical sequel to Counting My Steps (1969), nothing is settled or conjoined or heightened. The black-humorous first person is now a droning ""I,"" a stock Mitteleuropean character without a real sense of horror or of anything else. The ironies of petty existence against a cataclysmic background give way to a two-bit existentialism against a '50's background which the reader has to fill in for himself. And, as Lind skitters among women -- a churlish, boasting, yet numb kind of sexuality provides the book's theme -- the play of quirky humanity with inhumane pressures (which pervade his fiction) gives way to a dull obliteration of self and others. From Israel to Vienna and Paris and Holland and Sweden, there are women said to be ""each unique and heartening,"" but they are only bedded ' ciphers in the telling. Lind moves through a dull demimonde and the vignettes remain mere flavoring: the tale as a whole is a rejection of ""story-telling,"" which is, as he says, his metier. Finally, ""This traveling and fucking had to stop."" As a portrait of an artist, it's a close-up of sheer negativity.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1972
Publisher: Harper & Row