Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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SILBERSCHLAG----HEBREW LITERATURE IN AMERICA
33
language tends to be more bookish and more classical. I t could
and should serve as a corrective for the untamed flights of the
language in Israel.
A comparison of Hebrew literatures in Israel and America will
disclose the melancholy fact th a t neither there nor here does a
marked personality dominate the literary scene. After the death
of Bialik in Palestine, no man of similar stature usurped the vacant
seat of his recognized eminence. Uri Zvi Gruenberg, lone poetic
prophet of doom in Israel and nearest pretender to the throne, is
too isolated, too self-centered to win the unchallenged admiration
and affection of the Hebrew public. Yet it is a significant fact
th a t poets predominate — as they always have — in Hebrew
literature both in Israel and in America. Even the foremost prose
writers in Israel — Hazaz and Agnon — lapse into a poetic lilt.
And this can also be said of such Hebrew prose-writers of America
as Twersky who spent his formative years in this country and
developed a staccato style for romanticized biographies
a la
Mau-
rois and Ludwig; Blank who in his novels preferred the idyllic life
of the Bessarabian Jews to the hectic drive of American Jews; and
Sackler whose re-creation of the past imparts poetic overtones to
his style. Even the critical essays of Brainin, Ribalow, Epstein
and Isaiah Rabinowitz, the educational essays of Touroff and
Scharfstein, the discerning essays of Maximon and Ovsay, the
light-hearted essays of Persky and Goldberg, the well-documented
essays of Rivkind and Malachi, and the scholarly essays of Tscher-
nowitz, Mirsky, Feigin, Federbusch, Waxman, Churgin and
Bernstein, are charged with poetic overtones.
VI
Strangely, Jewish life in America has been meagerly exploited
by Hebrew writers. Only Wallenrod, a realistic portrait-painter
of immigrants in America, depicted with eager alacrity the baffled
and bewildered Jews in the New World. Other writers either
neglected them or approached them with timid caution. Though
this service remains to be rendered to Hebrew letters, a word of
caution is not out of place: no pursuit of regionalism or
couleur
locale
can compensate for the timeless elements in literature. Be-
fore American Judaism crystallizes an indigenous tradition, it will
not develop a genuine American-Hebrew literature. In the interval
it is worth remembering th a t the flashing flight of a bird across the
sky a t dawn or the sight of a tree a t sundown, deeply felt and
deeply realized in a poem, is worth more than pages of arid de-
scriptions and even fascinating approximations to real situations.