I’d heard about Moses Herzog. Saul Bellow’s feckless, conflicted, navel-gazing protagonist, but until last week, I’d denied myself the pleasure of his company. I’d read Portnoy’s Complaint, after all, so what more did I need to know about urbane Jewish suffering?
He’s a recognizable type, Herzog is, the guy at the party whose conversation drags so many footnotes behind it that you want to grab him by the shoulders and shout, “Don’t you have anything to say that will stand on its own merit?”
The more generous response, we know, is to remind ourselves that such people are compensating for wounds or deficits, to smile and nod, but when the untranslated foreign language embellishments crop up among the citations at the rate that Herzog’s do, one’s generosity packs its bags and flies out the window. It breaks glass if necessary. It leaves no forwarding address.
Eventually, Herzog’s suffering does redeem him. Enlightens him, anyway. He changes course. And the moral of the story, if I may be so bold, is simply this: we touch the face of God, not with our minds, but with our hearts.
Be still and know, you know?