chapter
168 Pages

Mésalliance

WithJoseph Rykwert

In this chapter, the author recollects the memories of his early life. After the October Revolution, the author's grandparents fled Kiev, leaving his mother and her younger sister, Masha, behind in the family house with one or two servants who remained loyal. The Polish push to the Dnieper in the 1920 campaign freed them so that the two girls could join the rest of the family. The common language in his mother's family and generation was Russian, while Yiddish remained second. Hebrew was reserved for prayer. Like many middle-class Jews in the Pale of Settlement, they were convinced of the superiority of Russian culture, a conviction that seems now more perverse than any Polish-Jewish cultural symbiosis. Neither ancestry nor a precipitate marriage was ever suggested in the mesalliance implied by family gossip he had picked up as a child; luckily, he was not really sensitive to the malice that motivated some of it.