Page 119 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

Basic HTML Version

a b in o w ic z
— H
e r z l
t h e
l a y w r ig h t
1 0 7
it is our old home.”22 More efficaciously than any possible defini-
tion, however, the vivid portrayal of the Littwaks in his prophetic
A ltneu land ,2s
conveys his vision of a Jewish family in the
reborn New Society in Palestine. They were poor, exceedingly
poor, like the masons in
Unser Kaethchen;
but they were no
beggars. “I am no beggar,” old Haim Littwak, the peddler, said
to Dr. Loewenberg; “you must buy something; otherwise I cannot
take your money.24״ They craved, not alms but work to maintain
their impoverished, yet undespairing family. Ultimately, it was
work, grim and conscientious work, that elevated the Littwaks to
their high plane in the New Society.
The Littwaks were Herzl’s ideal Jewish family. Indeed, he could
hardly have been a playwright had he not sought to contrast the
Littwaks with the families he had previously brought to life
on the stage. The rich Loefflers became the foil for this contrast.
We encounter them in the early part of the novel celebrating
their daughter’s engagement in their palatial home in Vienna,
teeming with gaudy wealth and littered with emptiness. Their
behavior and their faces are familiar to us from many characters
in his plays. Against this bourgeois setting in Vienna, we are
transported to the dark, wretched room of the Littwaks in the
Brigittenauer Laende. Our sympathy goes out to them im-
mediately, as well as our admiration, for their wholesome attitude
toward each other and toward their fate.
In the second part of
A ltneu land
we again encounter these two
families, but now in Palestine. David Littwak has since risen
to leadership, and every member of his family has made a use-
ful contribution to the upbuilding of the New Society. Yet, they
remained modest and closely knitted by honesty and love; while
the Loefflers, the Laschners and their friends are still the typical
bourgeois Viennese family. “All had aged but remained the
same,” exclaimed Friedrich Loewenberg on meeting them again
after twenty years. But in contrast to their former self-importance,
their role in the new country’s life had become completely nulli-
fied. “Mr. Laschner may have money, he may spend as much as
pleases; but no one takes off his hat to him for that reason.״
This sounds almost like an echo from
Unser Kaethchen
in which
Sievert, contrasting the workers and the parvenus, cried out:
“I would rather take off my hat to this poor woman than to
many another strolling by in silk stockings . . .”25
The thematic motivation and development of Herzl’s plays are
apparent, not only in this general picture, but also in many a de-
tail. It cannot be doubted that this is far from accidental. It
Das Neue Ghet to,
Act I, p. 30.
23 Forthwith quoted from the English translation,
by Lotta
Levensohn, New York, 1941.
**Ib id . ,
p. 21.