Themesof Illusions and Lies in the Novel “Jakob the Liar” by JurekBecker
Inthe novel Jakobthe liarthe themes of lies and illusions are inseparable in most instances.The novel was written during the World War two period. It is basedin the ghetto of Lodz, Polland. The main character Jacob Heym, whilegoing round the ghetto, was stopped by the German officer and orderedto follow him to the police station. The police accused him of beingout beyond the curfew time of 8 p.m. Although the police lied toJacob about the time, he followed him reluctantly and released himafter a short while. To him, he was the first Jew to get out ofpolice station alive arousing hope in him and growing urge to giveother Jews hope. In the station Jacob overheard the radio news aboutthe impending of the Russian Army, which transpired him to lie aboutthe ownership of radio, requiring him to issue news every day to givehis fellow Jews hope. The lies lead to illusions one after the other.
Theday after the police encounter while on duty with his co-workerMischa, who had planned to steal potatoes that could cost his life,Jacob decided to give him hope of the approaching Russian army.Mischa could not believe the news because the radio ownership in theghetto was prohibited. Without the conviction of Jacob through lies,Mischa could hardly believe the news. Jacob decided to lie to Mischathat he owned a radio. Through the false hope, Jacob stopped thestealing act but requested Mischa to keep the secret of radioownership when spreading the good news of the approaching Russianarmy. With the new hope, Mischa went to Rosa Frankfurter’s parentto give them the news, but he failed to keep the promise andassociated Jacob with the news and radio ownership. Due to fear ofterrible news, according to Felix Rosa’s father, being spread byMischa without proof, Felix decided to destroy his radio which he hadbeen hiding in the basement. Mischa ultimately spreads the lies tothe Jews in the ghetto that Jacob owned a radio, but to him, that wasthe truth.
ForJacob to maintain lies, he was required to be creative. Theneighbors’ knowledge about Jacob’s ownership of radio, which wasfounded on lies, necessitated him to come up with news every day soas to give them hope. Alternatively, without his news, the high rateof suicides would continue due to desperation in the ghetto. In hisattempt to propagate more news, he was one day tempted to takenewsprint from “Aryan water closet”, which was a no-go zone forthe Jews. Unfortunately, a nervous watchman approached the toilet,but Kowalsky distracted him to divert his concentration. To Jacob andKowalsky, Kowalsky act of knocking the boxes saved Jacob, but it isclear how nervous the watchman was implying he could not harm Jacob.The result implied that Kowalsky saved Jacob, which was just a mereillusion.
Thefollowing day Herschel Schramm, a typically nervous man, heard theimpending sounds of exiles from the wagon. With the intention ofreassuring them hope, by propagating the good news of Jacob, heencouraged himself to go near the wagon, but he was discovered by thewatchman and gunned down. Jacob felt accountable for Schramm`sdemise. When Jacob returned home he found Lina, an orphan he met whenshe was just eight years old her parents were killed on a hidingescaping deportation, searching for the radio. He ordered her to getout of his room, but he was aware that listening to the news wouldsoothe her heart and renew her hope. In a separate room, where Linawas prohibited from seeing Jacob, he imitated the sounds of radioprograms and copied the sound of presenter -Winston Churchill. Hestarted telling her allegorical narrative of a noblewoman who was illsince no one could offer her a cloud. The lady recovered when agrower offered her a cloud manufactured of cotton wool since shebelieved in the real sense that it was the real clouds. Raising thequestion of illusions through lies versus reality. Jacob hadsucceeded to give hope through lies to residents of the ghetto. Thestory of an ill woman was a metaphor for what was present in theghetto. Just as the noblewoman recovered by the provision of falsecloud, the hope of the Jews was grounded on fake truth.
Asthe time continued to pass, the lie became unbearable andinconvenient to Jacob, and the concentration was at ease. He actedas if the radio news started to be too unreliable but he was unableto withstand the pressure from persons who were pleading for news,inculpating him, or befriending him to have accessibility to thenews. At last, Jacob was unable to bear the pressure and in the timeof weakness he opened up to Kowalsky, who encouraged him that heapprehends all and would have behaved just in the same manner.Kowalsky did not bother to ask Jacob many questions, but he felttheir hope had been aborted. To Kowalsky, it was now clear that therewere no hopes but mere illusions.
Thenovel ends in two styles fictitious and factual style. For thefactual style, Kowalsky committed suicide with the realization of thefalse hope Jacob had impacted them. The hanging of Kowalsky is aclear indicator of the desperation of Jews being left to face deathalone in the ghetto. It seems that the high rate of suicides Jacobwanted to prevent recurred in the ghetto. Both Jews and Jacob himselflived in illusions. Jacob believed that he was the source of hope forJews, knowing he was a liar while Jews themselves had hope in Jacob.For the fictitious ending style, Jacob was killed in his attempt torun away from the Ghetto. Straightaway, as if Jacob’s gun deathopened the way for the war in the ghetto, the Russian troupe appearedto save the Jews. It can be deduced that Jacob wanted to escape fromthe faces of his fellow Jews who he had been assuring false hope orhe wanted to go to the city to acquire information on the proceedingof the war and come back to the ghetto, hence saving himself from thewrath of the people because of his lies. However, even if he acquiredthe information on the ground and brought it to the people, he couldhardly reassure them of any hope because they had already lost trustin him. All in all the initial lies on the ownership of radio led toillusions that Jacob was a source of hope for the Jews.