A(braham) M(oses) Klein M. W. Steinberg - Essay

M. W. Steinberg

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Second Scroll is] a story of complicated form, in which, on the simple framework of a nephew's search for a long-lost uncle, Klein weaves a moving pattern of contemporary Jewish history seen as the fulfilment of age-old religious and national aspirations. The return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land, regarded as a miracle manifested by God, establishes in part the religious theme of the novel. Concurrent with the development of this theme and bearing on it is the question of faith in God and the acceptance of His ways. (p. 37)

It is clear that Uncle Melech is to be taken as the Jew in exile, and his experiences, his divagations from the faith—his enticement to other ways and beliefs—are those of his people, as are his sufferings, the burden of the "galuth", and his eternal quest for truth and justice, and his final ascendance to the Promised Land.

As the role of the Uncle undergoes change, the meaning of the nephew's search, its purpose, becomes clearer. The thread of narrative is the journey of a Jewish-Canadian journalist to the new state of Israel to discover for his publishers the poetry of the re-born people. A second and more important strand of narrative grows out of this as the nephew determines to track down his uncle while in Europe, a search that takes him to three continents. The subtly suggested shift from the literal to the symbolic in the presentation of Uncle Melech shapes and gives new levels of meaning to the external framework. The young Canadian Jew, it is suggested, separated from his European relations, is not sufficiently involved in their fate. Though his concern with their tragedy and their future in Israel is real, one feels that it is also somewhat remote, belonging to the realm of dreams, of abstract fancyings. (p. 40)

[The] religious interpretation of events raises a more profound religious question, one that runs through the entire novel and constitutes its central and most moving motif:...

(The entire section is 821 words.)