In The 28th Day of Elul (1967) and Lilo's Diary (1968) Elman traced the course of the personality disintegration oftwo young...

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THE RECKONING

In The 28th Day of Elul (1967) and Lilo's Diary (1968) Elman traced the course of the personality disintegration oftwo young people during the congruence of self-discovery anddisaster. This time the head of the Hungarian-Jewish Yagodahfamily, Newman, is affixed at the eye of the storm as theholocaust approaches in 1944. Calculatingly adaptive, Newmanhad shrewdly maneuvered his way upward to wealth and status, marrying for money, bargaining, manipulating. ""Entering everynew room...eyes search for possible exits."" Uncomfortable, but""it makes one feel as if one is intensely living."" Andassimilative stances acquire a shaky but reassuring stability--Hungary must be saved from Bolshevism; there areglorious memories of acceptance in the Hungarian Army. Newmanmakes his habitual adjustments, writes hisjournal--smatterings of pseudo-scholarly discourse, scraps ofhousehold accounts increasingly irrelevant, and as the pace offinal agonies accelerate, there are ghetto ironies (""Nu, whatnext?"") His powers slip away and Newman has an Indian summeraffair with a gentile waitress, ignoring the psychic wounds ofhis dying wife. Helplessness and stunned incapacity bringabout a released sexuality and the unmistakable presence ofdecay. At the close, in transit to destruction, all defensesgone, Newman crawls toward a baby's cry: ""Must put an end toit."" A brilliant, lacerating intuition of the crisis ofpersonality in the icy horror of a social and moral vacuum.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1969

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1969