Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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51
LEVY ---- LUDWIG LEWISOHN
fervor. Jews who were what Lewisohn had formerly been, saw
for the first time the beauty and majesty of Judaism, the heroism
and role of the Jewish people in history. Lewisohn spoke to a
people that was no longer concerned merely in being Jewish
Americans, but rather in becoming American Jews.
His next volume,
Don Juan
(1923), was a variation, perhaps
rather an iteration of the same theme he had previously expounded,
namely, man’s duty to be true to himself in his love for a member
of the opposite sex. The husband, as in his autobiographical
sketch, is disappointed in his mate and must seek happiness else-
where. This problem is handled best in
The Case of Mr. Crump
(1925), to my mind the most successful of Lewisohn’s excursions
into fiction. I t has qualities of greatness. Impeccably written,
it develops its theme with consummate skill and holds the reader’s
interest by virtue of its well-integrated plot. As is to be expected,
this novel is more or less a chapter out of Lewisohn’s own life. It
is the story of a husband’s disappointment in his wife, his senior
by twenty-five years, and of the gradual foundering of a rapturous
love. The volume was published in Paris, for at that time the
fare it offered was still too “raw” for the American palate. That
same year he published
The Creative Life
, a collection of articles
on criticism, naturally of a high order, since Lewisohn was at his
greatest ease in this domain.
His long trip at this period, and his stays abroad at others,
convinced him of the bankruptcy of central European culture, of
which the savage treatment of the Jews was the most damning
proof. Post-war Germany, with its demand for the elimination of
Jew and Judaism, was barbarous; Austria was but its echo; Poland
was corrupt. He who had been reared in Germanic culture and
had hoped for a return home, found his “Heimat” not in Berlin
or Vienna, but in Tel Aviv. Here he felt were his people whose
age-old civilization was
sui generis
, his own. After a long pilgrim-
age he had at long last come home.
From this visit, with its profound change that deepened his soul
and saturated it with the Jewish tradition, sprang
Israel
, in many
respects his most beautiful book. I t is written with the glow of a
spirit at white heat, a soul that sought but did not find love either
in marriage or in career, and is now enthralled by a great affection.
I t seems as if Lewisohn poured all the love of which he was
capable into
Israel
, mystic idea, mystic people, the suffering serv-
ant of humanity, the uncompromising idealist (Lewisohn himself
again) rejected of men. Jews were his kinsmen, and though they
appeared odd to the eye, the hidden part of them, viewed through
the lens of the spirit, united them into an indissoluble brotherhood
into whose ranks Lewisohn now entered, and with whom he was