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Eliminating The “Other” To Find The Self

1067 words - 4 pages

Rezzori’s Memoirs of an Anti-Semite is the story of an individual searching for his identity. As Deborah Eisenberg, the book’s introducer, so concisely phrases it, “What impels the book’s first section towards […] the last [… is the narrator’s] longing for something to believe in […] to be loyal to […] to be”(xi). Notions of who and what he should become (as well as who and what he is not) vie for the narrator’s inner personhood. All the while, this same narrator, whose name changes over the course of the memoir (perhaps as a reflection of the diversity of his character), is forced to confront the external personifications of these forces – the Germanhood of his ancestors acted out by his family’s biases against Jews, and the relationships he shares with Jewish friends. It is through his tribulations, the reader is able to surmise how he or she might attain a fuller understanding of his or her own personhood.
Rezzori begins Memoirs referring to the narrator as Bubi. As the title of the first novella implies, Bubi finds himself suffering from what he terms “Skushno,” an intensely urgent spiritual longing (1-2) – an ailment which he feels the only appropriate cure is to be had by connecting with his heritage (19). Bubi gets his chance to connect, drawing all he can from the experiences facilitated during his stay at his Aunt Sophie and Uncle Hubi’s “tower.” These experiences, however, proves to bring new challenges. As with anyone who seeks to completely define him or herself by inheriting the practices and beliefs of his or her forbearers, Bubi likewise finds himself taking on his ancestors professed biases – most notably those directed against the Jewish community. Although these biases are understood prior to Bubi’s semi-induction into his uncle’s brotherhood, his own father having always despised Jews “with an ancient, traditional, and deep-rooted hatred,” (194) they become even more pronounced with the conclusion of this episode, his uncle Hubi having once “committed himself, in fraternal enthusiasm, to a Greater Germany – an anti-Semitist [one]” (16). Indeed, it seems that, at least for a moment, the narrator has found what he has been searching for – “harmony” (20). This illusion is short-lived, however, as Bubi’s encounter with the Jewish boy, Wolf Goldmann, stands to not only challenge many of the things he has been taught about Jews but to also marks the beginning of a lifetime of relationships with other Jews who reinforce this prospect – that Jews are people too – “simply people of another star” (204).
The companionship that Bubi finds in Wolf is an odd one to be sure, but it is nevertheless one that the reader (and even, retrospectively, Bubi himself) is able to gain insight from – most notably in regards to how the void of “skushno” may be filled. This is perhaps best identified when Bubi finally decides to bring Wolf to his house, the boys having, up until this point, spent their time remaining almost exclusively at Wolf’s abode....

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