14 February 2005

Babel in California

Excerpted from Issue 2.

Tolstoy observed, “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” and he was right: surely everyone on this earth, vale of tears that it is, is entitled to the specificity of his or her suffering. But in the end, I am too deeply invested in the idea that literature can render comprehensible another family’s unhappiness. For this reason, I once became impatient with a colleague I met at a conference in New York, who was insisting that the Red Cavalry cycle would never be totally accessible to me because of Lyutov’s “specifically Jewish alienation.”

“Indeed,” I finally said, “as a six foot tall first-generation Turkish woman growing up in New Jersey, I cannot possibly know as much about alienation as you, a short American Jew.”

He nodded: “So you see the problem.”

This is an excerpt from n+1 Issue 2: Happiness. To purchase the issue and read the rest of this article, which appears on page 22, go to the n+1 store »

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