Monday, April 2, 2007

Naked With Wiesel

On a dusky September morning, I decided to officially bid farewell to the 2006 camping season and go for that one last time. I filled the cooler with hummus and Heinekens and headed north.

On the way to the campground, I was forced to share the narrow one-way road with a fleet of bikers and their babes. To add to my aggravation, Blair decided to catch a large fly that had made its way into the truck. I drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other trying to restrain my 70-pound canine who thought she was a frog.


Two hours behind the caravan of leather-clad inbred Wall-Martians was enough for me to call it quits and head back, but the exit was nowhere in sight. Since there was a police car separating me from the sluggish convoy, reaching out for a beer and alleviating my impatience wasn't an option.


I finally made it to the much awaited intersection. In an act of frustration and defiance, I floored the pedal and barreled down the unpaved path to the campground. Once there, I relished in the fact that there was hardly a soul and that I would be spending two full days of self-imposed exile far from the city’s noise and hubbub.


After setting up camp, I tied Blair to a tall sycamore and headed for the nearby dunes with Elie Wiesel's Town Beyond the Wall. Every once in a while, there comes a book that is painful to read; not because it's badly written, but rather since it stirs up my emotions so intensely that I am forced to put it down for fear of an angina. Indeed, Wiesel's Holocaust-related book is one of those intense oeuvres that I can only properly tackle in peaceful - hence calming surroundings.


I eventually settled down on a secluded cliff under a lonely, old and rotting tree. The clouds parted and the sun made a surprise appearance. Since this was a clothing optional campground, there was no reason for me not to shed the burden of attire and be one with nature. I read absorbedly, the mild breeze and the warm rays taking turns in caressing my outstretched nakedness.

I reached a point in the story where the main character had fled to France after surviving the death camps. Wiesel then went on to describe how the protagonist kept receiving unwelcome visits from a fellow survivor. The insistence of the former in refusing the latter's stubbornly recurrent visits and all the bitter memories they represented was analogous to my relationship with Wiesel's book itself. Many a time did I try to finish this book, and yet I was unable to breach that wall of emotion. Nevertheless, Wiesel stubbornly beckoned from the bookshelf and refused to be relegated to a lower perch like Dostoevsky and others before him.


I laid down the book and cupped my chin, fixated on the relevance and universality of that specific metaphor and how it applied to other contexts in my life such as relationships with people, causes and more.
Like Rodin's thinker, I sat on that cliff, hunched over and overcome with introspection. Silence was occasionally punctuated by the rustling of leaves and the occasional bird call.


Suddenly, a loud and shrill shriek punctured the serene stillness.
I looked around frantically, thinking it was someone who had fallen and gotten hurt.


The shriek quickly turned into a whole cacophony of shouts, and they seemed to be approaching. Then, an obnoxiously colorful kite cut through the blue sky a couple of feet away. I looked down from the precipice and saw a dozen naked golden-aged people being led by a bald, pot-bellied man a couple of years their junior. The pudgy Moses was holding up the kite and leading his senile flock through the dunes. I could not make out the specific language being spoken, but I was certain it was Slavic.


As amused as I was by the whole spectacle, my face had not yet recovered from the initial shock. There was a rather heavy-set straggler who struggled to keep up with the other geriatric power-walkers. She probably saw the confused demeanor on my face and quickly offered her apologies for the disturbance. I told her not to worry about it, and I smiled when she cheekily explained in perfect Parisian French: "Pardonnez-nous monsieur, mais nous sommes polonais" Excuse us sir, but we’re Polish.

Oh those zany Poles. Must be the vooodka.


As they disappeared into the horizon, I attempted to revisit Wiesel's book yet could not cleanse my mind of the images of loosely hanging liver-spotted-flesh and shaggy silver-maned genitals. I also figured that to shift from the imagery of a naked jolly frolic to an Auschwitz death march was mentally impossible, not to mention borderline sacrilegious. Defeated by the circumstances, I put the book down.

I hiked back to the camp and took an eagerly awaiting Blair for a swim in a nearby stream. While she was distracted by the small fish, I sunk my body into the icy cold water and did some more pondering.
Here I was, agonizing along with a character from a book set in WWII, while these Poles - who were most probably there at the time, were running naked with their bare behinds insolently and rebelliously mooning the world and its discontents.
Perhaps it was a reminder from above that one shouldn't take life too seriously.
I didn't last long in that stream. Blair and I headed back to the campsite for a nice plate of hummus and a chilled Heineken.
--------------
The start of the 2007 camping season approaches; Wiesel's book still begs to be finished.

58 comments:

لبّيكَ يا رسول الله said...

Nizo
You write so eloquently!!

Anyway I haven't read Wiesel's book, but I will add it to my ever growing list.

Nizo said...

Thanks AG,

Wiesel is a great writer. I have not read all of his books, yet I studied some excerpts in my Hebrew classes.

His works are rich in symbolism and you just can't skim through them without asking if there isn't some greater meaning.

I find his style similar to Kafka's, only slightly less dark and cynical.

:-)

Léo Martin said...

Yes, always nice to read, you are.

Next time camping you go, us you must take.

Just maybe not to a nudist one!

IsraeliDiary said...

I don't know about Wiesel, but reading your posts is always an enjoyable experience.

As for Wiesel, I'm ashamed to say I haven't even heard of him, but the next time that I'm visiting a bookstore, I'll make sure to look up his name.

You know, I tend to believe that one can find meaning in everything that happens in his life and he may even learn something from it.

nominally challenged said...

Beautifully written post, Nizo. Wiesel is definitely worth reading (though very heavy, and I can understand why it's a struggle to get through the book). A nice quiet campsite sounds like a perfect place to try to complete the task :)

Tsedek said...

The single most largest revenge on the nazi's is the joie de vivre like this group shows.

Noam said...

I think I've said this before, but I have to--ahem--agree with AG that you writing is inspiringly eloquent!

I've only read Night, and that was nigh on 12 years ago. I remember being inspired to write him a letter, and received one in return.
I can see the Kafka similarity, but I really can't tolerate too much of the latter; he gives me indigestion.

Until reading your post, I was all about trying out a nudist campsite. Your description of the octogenarian Poles turned me off, I fear ;).

Léo,
So I'm rereading Romeo and Juliet right now (I was inspired by seeing Shakespeare in Love). Couldn't help but notice how Shakespearean your syntax sounded in your post. Are you a closeted poet?

Roman Kalik said...

Nizo, pick up something by Remarque. He's a truly magnificent German author (which is why the Nazis banned his works). He gives the soldier's perspective in both world wars, as well as those of the Jewish and political refugees. He doesn't do the Holocaust directly, but he touches it in his WWII books. His best book by far is "All Quiet on the Western Front" though, terribly gripping as it is depressing.

Also, I reccomend you look up the movies "Europa! Europa!" and "Life is Beautiful".

Roman Kalik said...

The movies are a bit controversal as Holocaust movies go, in that they are not constantly grim and often humorous, but I believe the human element comes across much better in them. "Europa! Europa!" is based on a true story, and it's the one I think you'll appreciate best.

Also, last but not least, great post! :-)

Léo Martin said...

Noam: nope, actually I'm a closet jedi master (but don't tell anyone)...

Oh and btw, loved ur site :P

Tsedek said...

:-(

Nizo said...

Léo: Thanks for correcting my blog. Say hi to your significant other and tell her how much I love her. Why would you want to go camping when we can go for another picnic...mmm....wine....

Roman:
I've seen both movies you recommended and I loved Life is Beautiful. I will definitely check Remarque, thanks!

IsraeliDiary:
Still counting down for the Angel :)

NC: Love your story, I thought of Rabbi Ben Zoma all day ;-)


Tse: Smile sweetie, Life is beautiful

Noam: I liked your other pic better, you tease ;-)

Roman Kalik said...

Why am not surprised that you watched these? ;-)

As for Remarque, goodo.

Tsedek said...

Tse: Smile sweetie, Life is beautiful

Nizo, u gottit, but 4whoever is reading here:

smile...

Noam said...
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Noam said...

Roman,

Europa! Europa! is intense. It's been years since I've seen it, but a certain shower scene comes to mind every time it's mentioned (and not for fruity reasons, mind you..).

Noam said...

Léo,

Your secret's safe with me. As for my site, you must be referring to my lair, yes?
I'll be doing some interior decorating soon, cave poetry and such..

Noam said...

Nizo,

When you're the only one unmasked at the masquerade, you can't help but feel a bit, er, naked. So I threw on the pansy.

However, since you've expressed disdain for the flower hiding the fruit, Nizo, I've decided to compromise. I'm throwing caution to the wind, embracing the exhibitionist within me.

Okay, you're right; it's not that big a deal. ;)

Nizo said...

וואללה יופי של תמונה יא נועם. גם אני יש לי תמונה בשבילך אבל לא כאן כי לא בא לי לתלות מעץ בכיכר השהידים בעזה..

אבל אם תשלח לי אימאיל.....

Noam said...

תודה, יא ניזאר :)
אבל לא נראה כאילו חסר לי שן? זה מוזר, כי רק כשהתמונה מופיעה מקובצת זה נראה ככה..

تصبح على خير!

Léo Martin said...

@Noam: darkness in you I sense...

@Nizo: 我不懂!

Nizo said...

Léo

mama huhu

Léo Martin said...

Nizo: שלום peace 安

Noam said...

Leo,

How could you forget سلام in your peace string?

Darkness? Where[fore]?

nominally challenged said...

נועם - כמה שיניים האמת, בגלל הפיקסליזציה. אבל תרשה לי לומר שהתמונה האחרונה יותר טובה :)

כל עוד אין לך תוכן בבלוג, לפחות שנראה אותך :D

Noam said...

NC,

אכן, מספר שיניים, צודק ;)
תודה, נראה לי שהאחרונה יש בה גם פחות סיכון--פה סגור.

הריקנות של הבלוג תתוקן עוד היום.

لبّيكَ يا رسول الله said...

Noam
Why the cough? :-)

Roman
I've read Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. It was impressive and quite depressing (from what I remember of it).

Noam said...

AG,

That was no cough! I was just...clearing my throat ;).

عيد مبارك

tsedek said...

Eid Mubarak??? <*_*>

Noam said...

Tse,

Yeah, it's the Prophet's bday. Or at least thus said Ahmedinejad..

tsedek said...

Ah... OK, thx. I thought this was only said at the Ramadan... :-)

Noam said...

No, as far as I know (and please, correct me if I'm wrong, native Arab speakers..), it's the equivalent of our חג שמח (or your Fijne Feestdagen(?)..).

Tot ziens

Roman Kalik said...

AG, every single book of his that I read was like that, though All Quiet on the Western Front is by far the best. I think Remarque put a great deal of himself and his own experiences in WWI into that book.

لبّيكَ يا رسول الله said...

Noam
Thank you, although we say
كل عام وانتم بخير
:)

You know Arabic or just a few sentences? :D

Noam said...

من الممكن ان عبريتك احسن من عربيتي, ولا بد ان عبرية نيزو احسن بكثير من عربيتي(خصوصا الفصحى تبعي), ولكنني اعرف اكثر من بضعة جمل..

Tse (& AG),

I stand corrected: I was under the impression that عيد مبارك (eid mubarak) was used for all holidays, but I guess it's only certain [major?] ones--Ramadan/Eid el-fitr, Eid al-Adh7a?

Learn something new every day.. (Thanks, AG)

Nizo said...

متواضع الولد

لبّيكَ يا رسول الله said...

نوام
كلمة عيد كلمة عادية يمكن إستعمالها في أي مكان، وليس فقط للإشارة الى عيد الفطر او عيد الأضحى. لكن بمناسبة المولد النبوي الشريف عادةً نقول: كل عام وانتم بخير.

وين تعلمت العربية؟ ما تقللي بالموساد.

:D

Noam said...

Ahem..
למי אתה קורה ילד?
دير بالك--هذا الولد بيعرف يلعب زي الكبار :)

Noam said...

شكرا على التوضيح, يا باشا :)
تعلمت في جامعتي بالولايات المتحدة, في الجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة (شهريت فقط), وفي جامعة بن غوريون (ممكن في رأيك أنت, هذه يعني الموساد..) ;)

Oh, by the way, the name 'Noam' has an ayin, so I spell it:
نوعم
נועם

When I was in Egypt, many wanted to Arabicize my name: Na3um, Na3im (incidentally an extremely common name among Iraqi Jews), etc.

When asked on the street, however, I impromptu adopted the nom de rue Samir, since my middle name is Shmuel/Samuel, after my grandfather Shmuel, الله يرحمه.

Nizo said...

لا تلعب بالنار بتحرق صوابيعك

واللي بيشتريك بيرجع يبيعك

;-)

Tsedek said...

Fijne Feestdagen


:D :D :D


jij ook :D

Noam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noam said...

Tse,

Bedank ;) To translate AG's explanation, Eid Mubarak is used for many holidays--not just the ones I mentioned. In the case of this holiday, al-Mawlid al-Nabi al-Sharif (the Noble Prophet's birthday), AG says it's most common to use the expression kul 3am wa-antum bikhayr (roughly, "may you be well every year"), which is another common expression used during holidays (and not limited to Muslim ones--so perhaps this expression is the safest multi-purpose holiday greeting.. I recall it even being used in my family (Iraqi side) during Jewish holidays, though the most common is 3amr wa-3ifi wa-rizq "[long-]life, health, and sustenance [=parnasa]"

Tsedek said...

Noam, if you won't answer I accept you're not interested in this and comply, but

how do you mean :iraqi side?

i've been living here more than half my life and been married into and submitted to an iraqi family

but: i didn't hear this wellwishing b4?

Btw: thx for explaining :-)

Noam said...

Nizo,

مين بيشتريني..؟ مش فاهم عليك
Perhaps I do need someone older and wiser to explain this things to me ;)

Nizo said...

مين بيشتريني..؟ مش فاهم عليك

اغنية قديمة

-------
على العموم انا لما اشتري ما ببيع

;-)

Noam said...

Tse,

Well, my father's Iraqi, making me half Iraqi. Generally speaking, my father's generation doesn't speak much Arabic anymore, unless they're talking about traditional dishes, telling old Iraqi jokes, or of course, when speaking to their parents/uncles/aunts/etc. (and even then, it's almost always mixed with Hebrew).

I recall my grandmother Marcelle used to always say "3amr u-3ifi u-ruzq" on holidays, specifically when kissing and passing the wine goblet around after kiddush. Hmm I guess this would belong more in Nizo's last post (being a grandma expression), but when someone did something really bad she would say 'nfaqsit 3eenak/uk/u/ha (may your/his/her eye explode), which sounds pretty darn graphic in English, but flows nicely in Arabic ;). Other expressions of displeasure: dakh mohak "may your head spin(?)" khley f'wichak "??? in your face" and the more general wii ghmaadh roughly "how horrid" (from MSA ramaadh, "ash")

Hmm..what do you mean by "submitted" to the Iraqi family? Did they force kubba burghul upon you? *salivates*

Goede nacht--

Forsoothsayer said...

real multicultural crowd here.

good for you nizo, reading something of substance. after all quiest on the western front i stuck to books about shoes :)

tsedek said...

noam:Hmm..what do you mean by "submitted" to the Iraqi family? Did they force kubba burghul upon you?

:D :D :D

Umm Kalthoum: 24/7 :D

Noam said...

Tse,

Haha! My mom had it easy then.. Her polish ears can't bear more than 5 minutes of such torture at a sitting.

Did you eventually learn to love her (which is your favorite?)?
I believe Robaayat al-khayam is my current favorite.

Nizo said...

my favourite is easily 1001 nights

fee leylit 7obb yilwah, bi alfi layla w layla...

Howa el 3omr eh gheir leylah?

tsedek said...

I did, Noam. But my favorite over the years hasn't changed, it is still enta omri :-) I can get high from that song :D

Noam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noam said...

Tse, Nizo,

Coincidence? My favorite was at first Enta Omry, then Alf Layla wa Layla, and only of late Robayaat al-Khayam. I only started listening 5 years ago; perhaps I'm a bit fickle..

Funny you should mention getting high off Enta Omry. When I was in Amsterdam I once got high in a coffeeshop which had it playing. The experience was transcendental.

P.S. Sorry if I offended anyone by alluding to the herb. I know a lot of Dutch people tend to be offended (rightly so) when the only thing foreigners associate with Amsterdam (or the Netherlands, for that matter) is prostitution and soft drugs, when there's obviously so many [other] cultural delights to be found.

Nizo said...

ayn ba3ya, this is an adult blog

have you been to "habibi ana" in Amsterdam?

Noam said...

No.. Shu hayda, habibi? "Maqhaa" sharqi?

Forsoothsayer said...

lessa faker is good stuff too...but frankly it's hard to enjoy umm kalthoum in egypt...

tsedek said...

'habibi ana' is famous ;-)

noam, I don't mind that the Netherlands is automatically connected with drugs and sex. As a matter of fact all of the Israeli's I know that have visited Amsterdam straight went for the Red Light District (not necessarily to 'interact') and the sex-museum. It shows more of the people visiting it than those earning money out of it (the Amsterdam municipality, don't forget the Job Cohen is a jew -if I'm allowed this small joke in my racist-black humor that I like)....

Forsoothsayer, why is it difficult to enjoy Umm Kalthoum in Egypt?