Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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tribution: “Mrs. Millin has become par excellence the inter-
preter of South Africa to the English-speaking world. This is
not only because of such an essay in objectivity as ‘The South
Africans’ [a graphic non-fiction study of the people of South
Africa], it is also, and chiefly, because of her novels of South
African life.”
Among these novels
—Mary Glenn, The Sons of Mrs. Aab,
What Hath a Man?, The Burning Man
and others—is
Coming of the Lord,
which largely revolves around two Jewish
characters. Within this novel are compressed all the tensions of
South Africa: between Boer and Briton and Jew, the South
African and the foreigner, the white man and black man and
Asian. In the country storekeeper, Isaac Nathan, and his son,
Dr. Saul Nathan, Mrs. Millin created two characters in whom
she incarnated all the conflicts of her people. She wrote:
. . Saul Nathan was two men. One of him lived among the
people in the big world and shared their interests and their
conventions, and even their thoughts and traditions, standards
and prejudices. And the other lived in a little ghetto, and
suffered and enjoyed with his own, and looked out on the big
world, and himself in it, with shame and amusement and
satisfaction and sorrow and contempt. Tha t really doubled his
life. It made it peculiarly rich. Even the resentments lent it
There is a scene in
The Coming of the Lord
in which the
country storekeeper, Old Nathan (as he is known in the town),
wants to illustrate a point and asks his son Saul to bring him
a Bible from the shop. “The Bibles are next to the patent
medicines,” he adds. “On purpose?” asks Saul. Old Nathan
answers, “You mean the Bible is a patent medicine for the
soul? No, no. I believe in the Bible, Saul. I have not found
more sense in any other book except Shakespeare.” This state-
ment applies to the author no less than to the benevolent
Jewish storekeeper watching from his little country store the
unfolding of a national drama. Mrs. Millin is steeped in the
Bible, and her work bears its impression in her style, in her
images, often also in her thoughts.
Echoes of the Bible ring through the five volumes of her
World War II diaries, which represent some of her most mem-
orable writing. In addition to much contemporary South African
history, they ponder again and again the tragedy of Jewry
caught between the millstones of Nazism, the world’s indiffer-
ence for so long to the
the sombre meaning of this
tragheit des herzens
(as Wassermann would have called it) for
Woven into her biography of Field Marshall Smuts are stray
patches of the history of Zionism’s advances towards the Jewish
State—an advance Smuts helped so considerably in his long and