Page 14 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
4
a book is not necessarily Jewish because it happens to be written
by a Jew. And, of course, the contrary also holds. There might be
books fairly to be called Jewish which were written by non-Jews.
So I widened my compass and turned to the list a second time —
a standard list, remember, of Great Books actually published and
put into common circulation — and I looked for Jewish books in
a broad sense. The first example I came across (it was in the Bs)
may appear to many of you trivial, but I give it to you all the
same. I t ’s a favorite book of my own and, however little you may
think it to our present purpose, I might perhaps induce some of
you to turn to it and enjoy it.
One of the most wayward of the many wayward eccentrics who
make up the richness of English literature is George Borrow.
Borrow was a wanderer with a taste for boxing and philology; and
he cherished all wandering peoples, particularly Gypsies, Ar-
menians, and Jews. True, he did not like the Jewish bruiser (as
indeed, I may remark in parenthesis, I don’t either), and he spent
a whole chapter of
Lavengro
in dispraise of the great Daniel
Mendoza. But this is as nothing compared with his descriptions of
the mysterious Jews of all kinds who are made to pass before our
eyes on his crowded pages. Let me read you a short section from
his
Bible in Spain
, an alleged record of his travels in Spain and
Portugal in the service of the British and Foreign Bible Society in
the eighteen-forties. He has just described a figure he came across
when riding at night near Talavera. He then goes on:
There was something peculiarly strange about the figure; but
what struck me the most was the tranquillity with which it
moved along, taking no heed of me, though of course, aware of
my proximity, but looking straight forward along the road,
save when it occasionally raised a huge face and large eyes
towards the moon, which was now shining forth in the eastern
quarter.
‘A cold night/ said I at last. *Is this the way to Talavera?’
*It is the way to Talavera, and the night is cold.’
‘I am going to Talavera,’ said I, ‘as I suppose you are
yourself.’
‘I am going thither; so are you,
Bueno.'
The tones of the voice which delivered these words were
in their way quite as strange and singular as the figure to which
the voice belonged. They were not exactly the tones of a
Spanish voice, and yet there was something in them that could
hardly be foreign; the pronunciation also was correct, and the
language, although singular, faultless. But I was most struck
with the manner in which the last word,
bueno
, was spoken.