Rosner’s quiet, subtle second novel (after The Speed of Light, 2001) once again shows the effect of history on the present, in the tale of two lost souls searching for themselves. “Begin again,” commands Danzig, art teacher and closet has-been artist; he forces his students to work, re-work, re-look, and move forward with their art, which he has been unable to do for years.
A childhood in post-Holocaust Germany was difficult enough, but any sense of normalcy and progress was abruptly halted after his older sister’s suicide. He fled to the US, he painted, he succeeded – but he was alone with his painful past. Instead of confronting his inner self, which he knows he can do through his art, he avoids it at all costs, and instead indulges in smoking, drinking, and futile affairs. One day a new model for his nude figure class walks in, undresses, and he is entranced – awakened not by sexual but by artistic urges he thought were gone forever. The model is Merav, an Israeli whose grandmother survived the Holocaust; she, too, is avoiding herself, and her art, because of a painful past. Her heart broken by a violent act, her spirit missing the night sky of the Israel desert, she, too, has indulged in doomed relationships and only toys with her art.
The effect that Merav and Danzig have on each other changes them, finally moves them forward as individuals and artists, as they reconcile their separate, yet shared, pasts. The characters are well-drawn and move slowly during the course of the novel, giving the reader an evocative glimpse into a transformational experience.