Learning about God

Norman Kotker, Author Henry Holt & Company $18.45 (200p) ISBN 978-0-8050-0726-8
In spiritual turmoil unrelieved by the catharsis of reconciliation with God, Bergen-Belsen survivor Chaim Fogel struggles toward death. But this inventive novel leavens the bitter story of his plight with scenes marked by gallows humor: the annual survivors' banquet at a ritzy New York hotel; the engagement of his daughter to a black man (a professor like Fogel himself) and their subsequent black-and-white wedding; even, at the end, the bizarre spectacle of his wife biting into a jelly doughnut at the moment the surgeon's scalpel bites into Fogel's brain. The story, with peripheral glimpses of his daughter's Cambridge menage and the bitterly ironic tragedy of the misshapen son she bears, centers on Fogel's headaches. No brain tumor, says the CAT scan; see a psychiatrist, says the sages. Group therapy doesn't help either. Fogel's private diagnosis is that God is laughing. Filled as it is with suffering and terrible uncertainty, this book provides astonishing insights into the human effort to understand what is beyond understanding. Kotker describes how to laugh at oneself in the process, to recognize that famine and bounty coexist, and to learn, in the course of it, something about God. (October)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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