The matter of my relationship with Max’s widow has to be addressed, so, although I have never met her I arrange to spend a couple of months in the Central European town where I know she lives.
It is a cold and fusty place: a network of dirty snow-choked alleys and partitioned rooms in which oil stoves distort and dirty the atmosphere of ersatz coffee, useless sedition and antisemitism poorly understood by those who espouse it – as they’ve never met a Jew. I do not reveal myself, when we meet, as a devotee of Max’s writings who has obsessively read and reread his works to the point where their otherworldly cadences have suborned my own feebler rhythms. She is younger and thinner than I imagined – all brown bangs, bitten nails, thick glasses in cheap plastic frames. When, after mutually disappointing lovemaking, I reveal myself – we are squabbling over rights to the thin candlewick bedspread – she asks only this: that I do not profane Max’s memory. And so I won’t.