Salt Prints Synopsis & Excerpts
The love between two individuals in New York in the 1980-90s is jeopardized the by the centuries-old German-Jewish love/hatred, fascination/fear, while it is characterized by the traditional mutual fecundation in science and the arts.
Their way of coping with the ever present challenge of the past is both comical and tragic. They were men born in the same German town, Worms-on-Rhine, historical site of Germanic legend, medieval cabala ("birthplace" of the first European golem), and Nazi parades. In the German failed dancer's feverish imagination, golem and clone become one, and he suspects his Jewish lover, a plastic surgeon and molecular biologist of planning to clone him.
The background is formed by Manhattan socialites of the charity and arts crowd.
From Chapter 1: A Dark Cellar in Germany.
A dirty streak slashes across the many-gabled little town. Blood turning brown. Damn my clumsiness, I cut my finger on one of these shards of paper-thin glass photo plates, and it won’t stop bleeding. Bad omen. The last time I cut myself and lost that tiny scrap of skin together with the drop of blood, the band aid grabbed by Henry…
…So far I had been able to put the past into parentheses, skirting the essential by a few well choreographed entrechats. But Henry’s uncanny inroads into the future made me yearn for the first time for an anchor. And I, the drifter, have nothing but the muddy bottom of a small-town German past to sink it into. Or is this past bottomless?
…(These photo plates) must be great-grandfather Adolf’s work. What if I could bring to light his “light writing,” resuscitate these photo-graphs from their funeral chamber? This cellar, destined to house the great white wines of Palatinate, is built along remnants of the town wall. Why did grandfather or papa create this cache within the thick, irregular, medieval stones?...Where, by the way, are papa’s Leica archives and the films of the Nuremberg Parteitage?
Remembering Lincoln Center
The first encounter between Adolf-Eugene and Henry had been as playful and silly as it could be… Adolf would never fail to notice an admiring glance, especially from such burning black eyes. Like all this fair-haired companions in the post-war German high school, he was attracted by “Semitic darkness.” Maybe this was due to the sex-appeal standard-setting Hollywood films belatedly reaching small-town West-Germany: while the female stars were vaporous blonde shikses straight out of the wish-fulfillment dreams of Polish-Jewish moguls, men like Victor Mature dominated the scene, even in shmalzy Heimat movies made in Germany. Siegfried was out, Victor Mature-Samson was in…
…Make sure not to be seen by him. Stalk him. Trap him in the restaurant. There is s problem, though: I am not able to pay for lunch in that place. But there is a solution: the bar, classical device of the poor fellow pretending to mingle with the mighty. This demands a certain art, because bartenders at luxury hotels are instructed to fan out as discreetly as possible this species of parasites who, for the price of one drink, occupy a bar stool intended for big-spending patrons. These seats are so precious because a chic bar must be “intimate” (see glazed brochure), lest it resemble a coffee chop. Intimidated? Nope! I am familiar with the most exclusive places around the world, having always lived on the fringes of high society. At the fringes of existence, rather, playing like a kitten with its loose threads. Yet, with my so often lauded “aristocratic cheekbones,” I consider refinement my birthright. Some younger guys may find Elton Jones’s face classier than mine. Careful, this is an old man’s sarcasm. I can’t afford to sound, nor even think dated.
…The French barman now asked for the third time whether Adolf was sure he did not want a refill. “Monsieur attend quelqu’un?” was his next intimation to his client to get lost. He felt uneasy with this kind of patron whose attire was undeniably of a certain elegance, of that ragged chic that can confuse even an experienced bartender: authentic neediness or fashionable radical pose? Gauche-caviar? He sighed. Pretending to wipe a glass, he studied in the back mirror Adolf’s “aristocratic profile” which, together with the impeccable pronunciation of “Sauvignon blanc,” made him wary of an embarrassing mistake. Chic places need French barmen for their infallibly right dosage of courtesy and arrogance, it occurred to Adolf.
From: Chapter 2: Central Park West.
“Eugene, the one with the noble genes…I am Heinrich, Henry, of course, here.”
“Heinrich, like Faust.”
I was struck by his intuition.
“Meir, the light.”
“How come you know that?”
“Simply through Golda. She did not know it. Ben Gurion told her.”
"Euphorion, I mean, Eugene, you know I am a Jew. Does that bother you?”
“Why must every Jew always ask ‘does that bother you’?’ By the way, my original name is Adolf. Does that bother you?”
That zest of aggressiveness spurred our senses to new heights. While the first embrace had been sheer enchanted discovery, this one was amorous agon. Our subsequent exhaustion made us sleep until late in the evening, when he was awakened by a male voice from downstairs, Ramón giving orders to the maid.
“I see, I am not the only one invited to feel at home here.” He got up, lips pursed, dancer’s gait, in the direction of the bath. His movements were calculated to give me my first opportunity to admire his back, hidden so far by too much closeness…
From Chapter 9: Ecce homo.
The general attention he received made Adolf feel like a soloist joining a band that was already in full play. He had a keen sense of the invisible social scoreboard looming over Manhattan charity events.
“Hi, Alexandra, dear. This is Eugene von Gerlach,” Henry introduced.
Ecce homo. There was the usual fraction of a second during which the experienced socialite sizes-up her vis-à-vis: socio-economic-professional status, sexual orientation, all in a glance…”Thank you so much, Henry darling for brining us Eugene.” She took Adolf’s arm to lead him around like a show dog to the various chatting groups. She had already appropriated him.
From Chapter 12: Hebrew wisdom via Hitler’s gothic script.
“ Faust’s study” in the garret
What are those dust-covered, bent-spined, leather-bound books, wedged back behind the medical treatises? They are written in Hebrew. Or is it Aramaïc? It could even be Yiddish, written in Hebrew letters. If so, I have a chance. Yiddish is, in spite of a sprinkling of Hebrew and Slavic words so close to my native Palatinate speech that I can learn to read it, as soon as I find the Latin equivalent of the letters. Twenty two, that’s manageable. But, as I have been unable to read my father’s letters sent in Hitler-imposed “Gothic” from the front, these letters are almost as forbidding as the Hebrew ones…Were they Henry’s father’s?
Here: a bunch of hand-written notes, pressed between cardboard from a Persil laundry detergent box and held together with strings made of twisted paper scraps, the poor wartime materials. What texts may have been twisted into these strings? Jewish prayer books that had escaped the autodafé, but were a dangerous possession? Nazi newspapers like Der Stürmer? I’ll pick just one sentence at random. Here is one not too radiating with ink auras and comet tails; the letters are still contrasting with the paper. These lines of Gothic letters resemble the skyline of my hometown, all pointed gables piercing the sky. By just copying them while giving the roundness of Romanic arcs to the Gothic spears, I may be able to read them under the mix of sunlight and the amber glow of the lamp.
“Light…and sound…and even the name of God…are merely symbolic representations”…cannot read the next two words…”Reality unformed and amorphous…Commenta…Zohar…Splendor…Moses de Leon…underlined: Akiva.
From: Chapter 19: The Elegant Worm.
With Kafka, the magpie, raiding Henry’s computer
Adolf was touched by so much hospitality on the part of the world-wide web, that alien universe. Would Mars or Neptune receive him as warmly as that?
“Wálcam!” answered Kafka in Adolf’s stead. It would turn out that synthetic voices were the bird’s favorite models for phonetic mimicry.
As always, in order to concentrate, Adolf had to click out all the gaudy, jittery invitations “to have fun” through evasion travel, evasion entertainment, adult this, adult that”…
“Franz, is “having a good time” your idea of having a good time? They have to be “entertained” – in French they say ‘entretenue’ of a kept girl – so poor they are in inner resources, no backbone, just like finger puppets which collapse without a finger stuck in their…” Adolf hissed his rightful indignation for the bird’s acquiescence. “Would their lives be richer among the pagodas of Thailand, the surf of Hawaii, the coral reefs of the Caribbean, the mountains of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the castles of Scotland, the geysers of Iceland, those frequently appearing temptations?”
“Wálcam!”said Kafka in the tone of “you got it.”
“What do you mean? Oh, wait a minute. Yes, maybe they would be richer., indeed. Isn’t Henry, who is anything but a beach boy, right now on Cayman Island in the company of this banker resembling a prehistoric marine monster? There must be a connection between these evasion “fun” places and the Genome Project: evasion, exactly, tax evasion. And also evasion from these legal restrictions at home that seem to be such an issue in the Manhattan Project of therapeutic and, above all, reproductive cloning. Oh, mercy on me, now I have to decode their coded decoding of the genome sequence!”