Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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Cohn might well represent a Jewish youth amidst the other
youths of that generation as a real person.
But, when James Joyce, in his epochal
Ulysses,
writes of the
Jew, Leopold Bloom, one can be quite positive that Joyce was
not interested in Bloom either as a Jew or as an individual.
Joyce was no more interested in Bloom as a Jew than he was
interested in Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s
al ter ego,
as a Christian.
T o be sure, as we follow the thoughts of Bloom through his day,
we come upon stray debris which might indicate Jewish inter-
ests, for example, references to Palestine, Jaffa oranges, the
Haggadah.
Bloom quotes the
Shema
in the Hebrew. He even
sings the
Hat ikvah
with the “traditional accent of catastrophe.”
Yet, despite all these evidences of concrete Jewish values floating
about in the stream of Bloom’s consciousness, the total concern
of Joyce in his great work
Ulysses
was not to depict a Jew or
create a Jewish character.
Joyce needed a foil, or better still he needed a complementary
symbol to Stephen Dedalus. Joyce sought to project into outer
symbols the conflicting forces within himself: his aspiration
towards the high, the noble, the pure, and his tendency down-
ward toward the low, the base, the ugly. Joyce chose Stephen
Dedalus as the symbol of his higher, inner aspirations, and
Leopold Bloom as the symbol of his own earth-bound, lesser self.
Just as one can genuinely doubt that Shakespere was an anti-
Semite because he created the character of Shylock as a foil for
his Antonio and Portia, so one cannot readily accuse Joyce of
harboring anti-Semitism in his conceiving the character of
Leopold Bloom. Artists speak in terms of the prejudices of their
times. Joyce unfortunately utilized prevailing prejudices in one
of the great literary masterpieces of all times. In this he has
rendered a disservice to the Jewish people.
All the more is this brought home to us when we realize that
since Joyce elevated the Jew, Leopold Bloom, into the important
role of Ulysses, he has begotten a veritable brood of them in
American literature: Fitzgerald’s Bloeckman in
The Beaut iful
and the Damned;
Hemingway’s Robert Cohn in
The Sun Also
Rises;
William Faulkner’s Julius Kauffman in
Mosquitoes.
All
of them are symbols, rather than fully realized human beings,
symbols of physically arrogant, earth-bound men.
The greatest novelist of our times is Thomas Mann. Philos-
opher, humanist, prophet, artist, Thomas Mann dominates world
literature today. Starting from the realistic
Buddenbrooks
in
which he sought to justify art in a commercialistic world, Mann
is now engaged in one of the immortal novels of all time—
Joseph—
in which he seeks to justify the ways of God to men.
T o convey this immortal theme to mankind, Thomas Mann
has chosen a Jewish character out of the pages of the Bible—
Joseph, son of Jacob. Th rough Joseph he symbolizes the strivings
of our age; he makes him the prophet-symbol of the age that is
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