Queen of the Jews
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."
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© NL Herzenberg 2015
Published by Philistine Press
Cover image: from a stained glass
window in Metz Cathedral by Marc Chagall
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.
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.