Queen of the Jews
a novel
by N.L. Herzenberg

"Very original. A monumental work of vibrant imagination."
--Moris Farhi,Turkish author, vice-president of International PEN since 2001

"This rich...novel works on many levels, and it is impossible to label it, to define it by genre. It is both a love story, a philosophical novel, a historical novel, a surreal fable, a meditation on the absurdity of extremism, an allegory of our condition, and a mystery. In a nutshell, it is an original and beautiful novel."
--Dmitry Borshch

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© NL Herzenberg 2015

Published by Philistine Press

Cover image: from a stained glass window in Metz Cathedral by Marc Chagall


Opening chapter...


Now that itís all overónot only the hitting but everything else tooóI wonder what would have happened if I had simply walked away that evening and left her to her fate. Whatever her fate would be, it would be none of my business. But I made it my business, and here I am. Was it worth it? The answer is always the same: no. Not worth my time. And by ďtimeĒ I donít mean something short and flippant. I mean time spent in the detention facility, which is just another word for prisonÖwithout sunlight, without freedom to walk wherever you want at whatever time of day or night.

Freedom. Itís not just a word. The detention facility is walls, guards, being told when to sit, to stand, to move. The only difference between walls and executioners is that here the walls have eyes and ears while executioners have none. The executioners are not human; the walls are human in the worst way. Yet Iím learning to love my walls. I have four of them in my room. I have a desk, a chair, a bed. I sit on the chair. I stare at a wall. Iíve become quite a Zen master: I can look at my wall all day. When a guard calls out ďDinner!Ē and unlocks my door, I see poor wretches file past on their way to the feeding room, yet I donít move. I can go without dinner. One meal a day is enough. I will use my time here to understand what brought me here.

My wall seems to have all the answers. The longer I stare at it, the more I understand something that wasnít given to me to understand earlier, when I obeyed the Professor, when I lived for revenge. Now I have only one friend, who is more than a friend, and I will lose this more-than-a-friend when Iím deported. I know it, yet I long to be deported because the sky is better than the wall. I stare at my wall all day and tell myself that I donít need anything else, because I have nothing better to stare at here, nothing better to love. I havenít been given the date of my deportation yet, but my lawyer says I donít have long to wait. I tell him it doesnít matter what country they deport me to as long as I get the sky. To be able to see the sky, this is my only goal in life, my only mission, my only task. My lawyer nods, smiles, shakes his head in disbelief. ďJust give me the date,Ē I say quietly. ďI need nothing else.Ē He smiles again. He is only a lawyer. You canít expect him to understand.




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