SEVENTH PART: Hoka-Neniís Unexpected Comeback, 2001-2002

Oil tempera on canvas,

474 x 40 in (120 x 100)


Therefore I give up dust and ashes

And comfort myself.

Free variation by Valentin Lustig on Job 42:6


Hoka-Neni, old, tired and fragile, slowly climbs the stairs and comes upon an unusual scene. On a strangely illuminated plaza, there is a carousel≠cum-lily pond with young men and women making love on giant eggs set in floating shell-like boats. Rising from the center of the carousel is a bizarre structure decorated with human heads sucking lollipops, flowers, an elephant head with a blossom in its trunk, and at the top a reproduction of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a statue that Hoka-N6ni may remember having seen at the Louvre. A little rabbit is looking on; a white bird is flying about.

Hoka-Neni has never experienced anything like this before. The only thing she recognizes is the snowglobe containing polar bears on floating islands of ice-the same snowglobe that was kept in the cupboard in her childhood home. Now it seems to her much larger than it was before-no doubt its importance to her has increased its size. It brings back a flood of memories of her former existence.

What has happened to Hoka-Neni? Obviously, she has been resurrected. She resisted most of the Temptations and has been rewarded, vindicated. She is still grumbling against God, like Job (13:20), though she does not claim to be sinless. She stands upon her integrity and insists that she has done nothing to deserve such bad treatment. But, again like Job, she recognizes the divine silence concerning human affairs, the futility of divine justice, and therefore resolves to stop challenging God's conduct. Her heart is free from vengeance against her fellow man; she has faith in the future of humanity. Her favorite nation, Germany, has redeemed itself and returned to the right path (she especially likes the younger generation). She still recites Goethe's Faust by heart.

The aquatic creatures in the foreground add to the otherworldly character of the scene. On the left, a towering building with no sign of life inside enhances the Surrealist character of the painting-one thinks of Giorgio de Chirico's forsaken plazas. The sun illuminates a portion of the building. This is puzzling, and it raises a question. Where is Paradise? Can we find it on earth among Temptations?

© by Edith Balas