That growing unease you feel when you’ve spent an entire evening chatting with an old friend, and when you leave his home, another friend is waiting for you outside and says, gasping a little with the effort of saying something so terrible, “I think your friend’s an informer. Be careful.”
And you think back on the conversation you’ve just had, the scene in the old friend’s house, and it is, very pointedly, about Jews. And the subject was introduced by — that’s right — none other than the old friend. And the book’s main character, Viktor Pavlovich, had thought nothing of the conversation because he didn’t feel Jewish himself. Well, he was a Jew, and his mother was a Jew, but he had been born in Russia, and he felt Russian.
Viktor: “That’s nonsense. I don’t believe a word of it.”
Madyarov: “Can’t you see? All his friends and all the friends of his friends are just labour-camp dust. His whole circle has vanished. He’s the only one left. What’s more, he’s flourishing. He’s been granted his doctorate.”
And you, dear reader, get the most awful twist in your stomach, because you know it’s lights out for Viktor, he (and his mother) are on their way to either a German gas chamber or a Soviet labour camp.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.