(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although he claims to suffer from an “inherent inability to communicate,” Sammy “Titch” Hoch proves to be an especially effective narrator: observant, articulate, candid, and above all humorous in his own deadpan, largely sympathetic way. Just as his diffidence as well as his particular brand of humor may derive from his Jewish-Polish background, much of his success as a narrator-observer may be attributed to the very cause of his discomfort, his role as an outsider in a society that is not so much hostile to him as it is indifferent. Made inconspicuous by virtue of his most conspicuous feature, his nearly dwarfish size, Sammy is a misfit, a decidedly comic version of all those displaced persons made homeless by the war.

The irony of Sammy’s situation is made especially clear when he is finally inducted into the British military only to find himself soon reassigned to the Polish army-in-exile as a rabbi’s assistant. That Sammy is not a Pole by citizenship, only by background, contributes to the reader’s sense that Sammy’s fate is amusing rather than unjust. In TITCH, however, the real war does impinge on Bermant’s fictional world and, however obliquely, on the lives of Sammy and the others: A mere mention of the Soviet massacre of fifteen thousand Polish soldiers in the Katyn Forest, for example, or of rumors of the Nazi deathcamps brings to mind the horror. To his credit, Bermant neither slights the sufferings of Jews and Poles nor allows them to eclipse the lives of his characters. Sammy survives not as tragic victim but instead as schlemiel and misfit, as some hybrid, only half-Anglicized Jew-Pole: displaced, partitioned, but still alive, still innocent, still God’s fool--small but beyond elimination.