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Monday, May 28, 2007

The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick

A brutally sad story of the love of a mother who must eventually watch one of her daughters die. The setting is in what I presume is a concentration camp in Germany. Rosa, the mom, has two daughters, Stella, 14, and Magda who is a baby. Both must get their nourishment from their mother. It is cold and both daughters must share the only shawl to keep them warm. Magda gives up trying to nurse on empty breasts and discovers that she can suck on the shawl for nourishment. Sadly, Stella becomes jealous of Magda. Rosa believes that "Stella was waiting for Magda to die so she could put her teeth into the little thighs." No one else knew of this baby hidden away in the barracks all day, and Rosa knew that one day Magda would be discovered. One night Stella pulled the shawl onto herself. Magda ends up toddling away outside of the barrack in search of her mother and shawl. Suddenly, Magda has a voice for the first time and cries out "Maaa---" She is carried on the shoulder of a soldier to the electric fence and thrown against it. Rosa can only watch from across the square.
"She only stood, because if she ran they would shoot, and if she tried to pick up the sticks of Magda's body they would shoot, and if she let the wolf's screech ascending now through the ladder of her skeleton break out, they would shoot; so she took Magda's shawl and filled her own mouth with it and stuffed it in until she was swallowing up the wolf's screech and tasting the cinnamon and almond depth of Magda's saliva; and Rosa drank Magda's shawl until it dried."

1 comment:

shersy said...

EEEK! I think I'll skip reading this one - too intense for me!