Pgs. 160 & 161 of David Markson’s copy of Tevye’s Daughters: Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem by Sholom Aleichem:
On which Markson has placed a line in the margins next to the following passage:
“I wasn’t worried about God so much, I could come to terms with Him, one way or another. What bothered me was people. Why should people be so cruel to each other, when they could be so kind? Why should human beings bring suffering to one another as well as to themselves, when they could all live together in peace and good will? Could it be that God had created man on this earth just to make him suffer? What satisfaction would He get out of that?”
On pg. 163 of The Last Novel, Markson mentions:
“Recalled from Eastern European ghettos, virtually until the very last residents were evacuated to Nazi death camps—schoolchildren reading Yiddish editions of The Prince and the Pauper and Around the World in Eighty Days.
God of forgiveness, do not forgive those murderers of Jewish children here.
Said Elie Wiesel, visiting at Auschwitz a half-century later.”
One thing that one notices upon reading Markson’s tetralogy is how horrible we humans treat one another. From the somewhat-lesser offense of letting our great artists die poverty-stricken to the great travesties of the Holocaust and slavery and crucifixions and burnings at the stake—we have been absolutely horrible to one another throughout human history.
Let’s just pick one of Markson’s books and take a gander…
“Occasions on which the Nazis returned the ashes of murdered prisoners to their families.
Via parcel post.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 7).
“Alexander Pope, who was denied burial in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey:
Having been Catholic.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 9).
“380 A.D. Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople—ordered Sappho’s poems to be burned.
1073 A.D. Pope Gregory VII—ordered Sappho’s poems to be burned.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 19).
“Asses loaded with books.
Mohammed, who could not read or write, dismissed the Jews as.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 22).
“José de Silva, the Portuguese-Jewish playwright who was forcibly converted to Christianity—and then was burned alive by the Inquisition for secretly continuing to practice Judaism.
With one of his plays being performed in a Lisbon theater on the same afternoon.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 25).
“Heinrich Heine’s grave in Montmartre was deliberately despoiled by Nazis in World War II.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 37).
“Tamerlane, in 1938, seeking justification in the Koran for an attack on Delhi and given a verse by the mullahs: O Prophet, make war upon the infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with harshness.
Whereupon he massacred one hundred thousand unarmed prisoners.
The First Crusade, achieving Jerusalem three hundred years before that, as witnessed by the priest Raymond of Agiles:
Wonderful things were to be viewed. Numbers of the Saracens were beheaded. Others were tortured for several days and then burned in flames. In the streets were seen piles of heads and hands and feet.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 39).
“The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in the year 2000, on the Holocaust:
A fairy tale.” (Vanishing Point, pg 50).
“Several of Montaigne’s ancestors—Jews, on his mother’s side—had been burned at the stake in the Spanish Inquisition.
It is setting a high value on our opinions to roast people alive on account of them.
Said Montaigne himself not unreasonably.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 79).
“I. G. Farben. To Commandant, Auschwitz:
In contemplation of experiments with a new soporific drug, we would appreciate your procuring for us a number of women.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 103).
“The fifteen young Muslim girls who were left to burn to death in a school fire in Mecca when vice police drove off those coming to their aid—lest they be seen by men while not wearing their head scarves.
In 2002.” (Vanishing Point, 129).
“John Huss is said to have chanted hymns as he was being burned alive.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 164).
“If anyone pilfer this, may he die the death, be boiled in a cauldron, may epilepsy and fever overtake him, may he be broken on the wheel and hanged. Amen.
Says the Latin inscription on an extant hand-copied twelfth-century Bible.” (Vanishing Point, pg. 167).
What bothered me was people. Why should people be so cruel to each other, when they could be so kind?
“Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum, Lucretius said.
Such are the evils that religion prompts.”
An important passage from pg. 94 of This Is Not A Novel.