believes and disbelieves that Jews contributedrnto their victimization; that latern19th-century German anti-Semitism “assumedrnobscure shapes and shadows”rnleading to Nazism; that it was typologicallvrnsimilar to what was found in England;rnand that the Final Solution dependedrnon the “contingency” of Hitler’srn”peculiar personality.” Between the arresHngrnassertions maintained at the beginningrnand at the end of the book, thernbod’ of it offers a grab bag of secondar)’rnliterature. But however innocuous therngreater part of Esau’s Tears, Lindemannrn—predictably—has been vilifiedrnfor speaking forbidden truths: that antigentilernhostility has been basic to Jewishrnidentity; that this hostility has acquiredrnimportance, with the decline of anti-rnSemitism, as an intra-ethnic glue; thatrncontinuous Jewish persecution underrnChristianity is a fiction; that Christiansrnhave not exhibited a single unified responsernto Jews; and that Jewish behaviorrnhas played a critical role in determiningrnrelations between the Jews and Christianrnsocieties.rnWliat Lindemann does not explain isrnwhy Christians have come to think differentlyrnon these matters than they oncerndid. It is not Jews alone who push Jewishrnvictimology, an’ more than black historyrnis an industry composed exclusively ofrnblack people: members of a disintegratingrnChristian society cheer on attacksrnagainst their own heritage and championrnthe victimological claims of “marginalized”rnminorities. In an obvious allusionrnto demands by the American and Germanrnleft that the German people overcomerntheir national past, Lindemamrrnasks, rhetoricallv, “Should we expectrnpeople who are part of a victimizedrngroup, or who define themselves as powerless,rnto do any ‘mastering’?” Black HistoryrnMonth, he observes, “is not muchrnconcerned with mastering uncomfortablernrelations — except those that othersrnare uncomfortable about.”rnCelebrants of victimhood are respondingrnto the collapse of the broader culture.rnAbsurd claims—such as that Jewish mediarnmoguls favor black candidates forrnemployment from a shared experiencernof being “outsiders” in America —havernbecome unchallenged substitutes for therntruth. White gentiles, as well as blackrnand Jewish vietimologists, wish to believerngrotesquely false or exaggerated accusationsrnabout the world they are abandoning.rnThat is the real context of thernvoniroversv stirred hy Esau’s Tears: Lindemann’srnunwillingness to allow thernvictimology racket to proceed unchallenged.rnPaul Gottfried is a professor of humanitiesrnat Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown,rnPennsylvania, and the author,rnmost recently, of After Liberalism: MassrnDemocracy in the Managerial Statern(Princeton).rnThe Leading Manrnby Frank BrownlowrnBirthday Lettersrnby Ted HughesrnNew York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux;rn198 pp., $20.00rnOn June 16,1956, Ted Hughes marriedrnSylvia Plath in London. Hernwas a recent graduate of Cambridge Universitv,rnworking for the J. Arthur RankrnOrganization; she, a Smith College graduaternat Cambridge on a Fulbright scholarship.rnBoth were poets. The marriagernlasted six years and produced two children.rnIn late summer 1962 the couplernseparated, and on the morning of Monday,rnFebruary I I , 1963, Sylvia Plath,rnacutely depressed, committed suicide inrnher London flat.rnIn the 35 years since then, duringrnwhich both their poetic reputations havernprospered independentiy, the tragic aftermathrnof their marriage has kept themrnlinked in people’s minds. Both haverntheir partisans. To some people—mostrnof them probably women or American —rnSylvia Plath was a martyr, and TedrnHughes is a villain. To others, who believernthat Plath was chiefly the victim ofrnher own mental instabilit)-, Hughes is arnmore sympathetic figure entitled to takernsome credit from his marriage and thernlong, often grueling, aftermath — even ifrneveryone would agree that a man whornleaves a wife and two small children, forrnwhatever reason, is open to some criticism.rnTed Hughes’s Birthday Letters consistsrnof 88 poems written for the most part inrna kind of free blank verse, all but onernof them addressed to his dead wife.rnAccording to the jacket copy, he beganrnwriting them shortly after her suicide;rntheir composition therefore extendedrnoer more than 25 xears. Readers familiarrnwith Sylvia Plath’s life and writing willrnrecognize many of the poems’ subjects:rnher meeting and marriage with Hughes,rntheir travels across America, their life inrnDevonshire, and the birth of their children.rnHere too is her ride on the runawavrnhorse, the time she smashed herrnhusband’s table, and the one when shernsliocked him by destroying an unknownrncountryman’s rabbit snare, found duringrna walk. The sequence, then, is an extendedrnlyric commentary on a storyrnwhich will be familiar in outline, andrnsometimes in detail, to many of its readers.rnIt has been told often enough at second,rnthird, and fourth hand, but this isrnthe first time Ted Hughes, who hasrnmaintained stiict silence on the subject,rnhas commented upon it.rnWriters in newspapers and pundits inrncolleges, speaking about the volume’srnappearance, have tended to assume thatrnthe author has published his side of thernstory in poetic form to vindicate himselfrnThis is unlikely, since Ted Hughesrnknows better than anyone that vindicationrnis impossible, while anything hernpublishes on the subject will be taken inrnsome quarters as provocation. This, presumably,rnis why he has refused to be interviewedrnabout his book. Besides, if vindicationrnwere his intention, a volume ofrnpoems would not be an effective way tornachieve it. Many of the people with thernstrongest views on the Plath-Hughes storyrncould not construe a poem accuratelyrnif their lives depended upon it.rnTed Hughes is a poet, and he has publishedrna book of poems. That much wernknow; somehovi’, despite the notoriety ofrnthe subject, we ought to try to read hisrnpoems as poetr}’. Birthday Letters is not arnpoetic diary or a versified file of newspaperrnarticles, though some people seem tornthink that it is something of the sort. 1 hernNew York Times, for instance, quoted anrnEnglish professor as saying that the poemsrnfail to answer crucial questionsrnabout the months leading up to Plath’srndeath. That professor is evidenfly in thernwrong business, but she is not alone in it.rnHughes has arranged the poems prettyrnmuch in the chronological order of thernevents they refer to, but it would be surprisingrnif he had written them like fliat.rnThe arrangement is a work of retrospection.rnOne imagines a man drawn backrncontinually, no matter what his other oc-rnAUCUST 1998/31rnrnrn