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Yiddish Survives The Apocalypse

Although Philip Roth struck out miserably in his latest novel, Exit Ghost, literary Jewry may yet have some reason for celebration. America’s least Jewish novelist, (with some very fierce competition from John Updike) Cormac McCarthy, has brought a little bit … Read More

By / October 1, 2007

Although Philip Roth struck out miserably in his latest novel, Exit Ghost, literary Jewry may yet have some reason for celebration. America’s least Jewish novelist, (with some very fierce competition from John Updike) Cormac McCarthy, has brought a little bit of Yiddish with him into the post-apocalyptic universe. In McCarthy’s most recent, and miraculously stunning, novel The Road, the reader is made witness to the blackened sphere that is the Earth after Armageddon. A father and son trod west across America, trying to outrun the onslaught of a deadly winter. And the onslaught of a deadly everything else too. The book is so absolute in its bleak evocation of hell on earth that it very nearly defies description. As the old expression goes: it’s like describing the color blue to the blind. There’s no humor in the conventional sense. There’s no black humor or sick humor either. There’s wall-to-wall violence and abomination of religious proportions. There are nightmares made daymares made flesh. However, amid the death with a side of death and a glass of death to wash it down there is a heightened sense of the tender, the precious, and the fragile. And this is about the only reason I can imagine for McCarthy’s inclusion of the otherwise laughably out of place sweet Yiddish word tuckus in the text.

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