Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A new wave of anti-Semitism alarms France, so magazines say. The Jews back in the dock. Reminded me of this novel about a little Jewish boy in America. Living with his family that has fled Europe to start life afresh. The boy has no idea what had happened back in Europe, his questions are not answered. One fine day, the Red Cross deposits Grandpa home in an ambulance. Old, senile, survivor of the Holocaust, not completely there. Always smiling, talking only to himself, living in a different world only he knew. The little boy is very curious about this mystery, but does not know what to do, he just cannot get beyond the veil.

One day at school he learns about number locks. That a combination of numbers can be used as an unlocking mechanism. He remembers the strange numbers branded on Grandpa's arm. (By the Gestapo, but he does not know that). So one evening, alone with Grandpa in his dimly lit stuffy basement room, he sits in front of the old man and repeats the numbers in a quiet slow voice, like a magician, trying out all possible permutations. Hoping one of them will unlock Grandpa, the secret world that he inhabits. But Grandpa continues to smile unseeing, talking in a strange mumble as always, lost beyond comprehension.

In the end the boy gives up in frustration. He realizes, with a feeling of suddenly having grown up, that Grandpa has closed himself in a world from where nothing, not even the magic of numbers, can free him.

Dec 2003

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