TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN by Raymond Federman


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To tell yet another story of the Holocaust and its aftermath in a way that isn't only repetitive is the problem this short (186-pp.) experimental novel partly succeeds in solving. Federman (The Twofold Vibration, 1982; Smiles on Washington Square, 1985) plays the postmodernist game of making the author himself, and his difficulties in telling the story, part of the novel. Also, he strips the countries where the action occurs of their names, although they are clearly wartime France, the US, and Israel. Further, he leaves extra space between each paragraph, slowing the flow and emphasizing the artificiality of the act of writing. Here, the author deals with an enormity: two children whose families were ""erased"" by the Nazis and who survive almost by chance, the girl because her mother sent her for bread and the boy because he was pushed into a closet at the moment when soldiers pounded on the door. They are cousins, the girl 9 and the boy 12, cast adrift in a hostile world. The two are briefly reunited at war's end; then the boy goes on to the US and makes a career as a sculptor, and the girl moves to Israel and becomes a farmer. The frame of the story is their reunion 35 years later, somehow at peace although the absences they have suffered are unrecoverable. The prose is measured, sober, fine, but the characters seem as artificial as the carefully assembled apparatus that puts them through their paces. By eschewing what he calls ""the paralyzing holiness of realism,"" Federman loses the pulse of life.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1990
Publisher: Fiction Collective Two (Illinois State Univ., Normal, IL 61701)