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Book Reviews

Family voices

Anthony Rudolf  |  Autumn 2004  -  Number 195

  
  
 

Adam Horovitz, Next Year in Jerusalem: Poems (Stroud: HooHah Press, 2004, £2 plus 50p p/p)

First there was Sebastian Barker, son of George Barker and Elizabeth Smart. Then there was Frieda Hughes, daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. And now there is Adam Horovitz, son of Michael Horovitz and the late lamented Frances Horovitz. For unknown if not unknowable reasons, I expected the father’s post-Beat Dionysiac rhythms to loom large in this pamphlet but no, the more introspective and imagistically lyrical voice of the mother is present as a backdrop or matrix to these tenderly projected yet tough-minded poems.

Among the linked themes is the painful one of the poet’s rejection by some of the fundamentalist relatives of his father, who do not accept Adam because his late mother was a Christian. This minority has not even been able to accept him as a human being, a person to whom civility is due - even if he is not ‘one of us’ according to the strictly religious definition of a Jew - although doubtless their real and displaced target is the father. Despite everything, the son has the courage and self-knowledge to joke about the situation.

But in this ethno-cultural day and age, as a reading of Emma Klein’s fine book Lost Jews (London: Macmillan, 1996) makes clear, being Jewish is not as absolute a state as it once was. On the margin, on the threshold, good and exciting things happen, including the poems of Adam Horovitz. Tactful and tactile, he has his own true voice, speaking his occasionally disturbing material with a light yet firm touch.
One of the strongest poems is ‘Dream’ which, as the note tells us,

takes facts about my grandfather’s role in the Great War and conflates them with my Uncle Leo’s role in the liberation of Belsen when he was serving with the RAF in 1934. My grandfather Abraham Horovitz was awarded the Iron Cross after serving as a Cavalry Lieutenant.

Let us end with it:
I saw my grandfather
caught in a ring of bodies
which slumped around him like scattered notes.
There were tears in his eyes.

He was shaking visibly
to some personal music.
His mouth, like a broken five-bar gate,
was letting out any noise that wanted to come,

a hissing stream of spent gas
touching nothing.
The bullet he had taken
and kept locked in his flesh

for thirty years sang within him,
seeping out through scar tissue like light.
He mouthed the Kaddish
to people thin as snowdrops caught in frost
whilst the Iron Cross on his chest glinted yellow
in the deepening sun.

Anthony Rudolf
is a writer, translator and long-time contributor to the Jewish Quarterly under all its editors. His edition of Piotr Rawicz’s book Blood from the Sky was recently published by Elliott and Thompson, and his long essay ‘Rescue Work: Memory and Text’ in Stand magazine. He is completing a second memoir and a book of

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