Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel “Enemies, a Love Story” is about Jews who survived the Holocaust, then ended up in the United States in the 1950s to start their lives anew.
But how is it possible to carry on after your children were executed by Nazis, your wife was murdered, and you had been hiding in a hayloft, unable to protect the peasant girl who had been hiding you for three years under threat of death?
Herman Broder, the novel’s main character, lives in Brooklyn. He is consistently haunted by a nightmare: “They were poking with their bars trying to find him, and he was digging deeper and deeper into hay,” Singer writes. Herman wakes up, but the nightmare doesn’t go away.
Herman is surrounded by women. The gentile Polish woman Yadwiga, a shy peasant who was the former servant of his parents, saved him and he married her out of gratitude. Masha, a Jewish woman from the concentration camps, is a searing beauty, who, like Herman, is unable to forget the past. Tamara, Herman’s first wife, has returned from the land of shadows where she watched her children being executed.
Herman throws himself from one woman to another, as if running from himself and from each of them. Yet all these characters are united by the catastrophe they survived, tied together by death. The insanity that seized us during the 20th century did not end with the end of the war, of the Holocaust, of the catastrophe of the Jewish people. It continues mutilating human souls.
Sometimes in life one has a period of a particular writer. For me it was Singer. As a theater director, this is not the first time I have turned to him. Before “Enemies,” I directed “The Slave” and “Shosha.”
In a certain sense, “Enemies” completes the Singer trilogy performed by my company, Gesher Theater. I always wanted to get back to him. In his novels, stories and prose — despite their biblical, epic nature — there is some unique particularity. They are dramatic by nature. “Enemies” is not just a wonderful piece of literature, but a diligently made psychological portrait of a certain generation.