AFTER by Melvin Jules Bukiet


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 Bukiet (While the Messiah Tarries, 1995, etc.), fiction editor of Tikkun, draws on stories of his own family's survival of the death camps for this corrosive satirical novel of the Holocaust's aftermath. The story begins on the morning of the day that US troops liberate the inmates of the concentration camp at Aspenfeld, among them the 19-year-old Isaac Kaufman--an ex-yeshiva boy turned scrounger and scoundrel who's determined to prosper in the post- Liberation era by using the skills he acquired surviving the Nazis. He will augment those skills with the talents of Marcus Morgenstern, a former dentist trained in Dachau by the Nazis to be a master forger, and with the additional help of a motley crew of fellow death camp survivors. As Kaufman's schemes escalate from minor black marketeering into the wholesale creation of elaborate false documents (including a demented scheme for DPIDs--Dead Persons Identification--that is clearly a nod to Gogol's Chichikov), he becomes entangled with a supporting cast that includes a group of corrupt GIs; the well-meaning but inept representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee, a real-life Jewish charitable organization that draws considerable scorn from the author; and Isaac's mysterious brother Alter. Bukiet has a sharp eye for the gruesome anecdote and produces brutally cynical, crisp dialogue reminiscent of the hard-boiled 1940s-style detective novel. But the book runs aground for some 40 pages during an elaborately described costume party far too weighted down with symbolism, and Bukiet's lampooning of the US Army seems unoriginal, too much like secondhand Joseph Heller. Still, despite the longueurs and wildly uneven tone, those who persevere will find a conclusion that is surprisingly earnest, genuinely affecting and, largely because of what has gone before, deeply resonant.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14536-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996


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