Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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5 7
B
e r n s t e in
— J
ew ish
W
r iters
in
S
o u t h
A
fr ica
eventful life. Mrs. Millin’s Jewishness emerges largely, too, in
her two volumes of autobiography,
The Night Is Long
and
The Measure of My Days.
The trend to realism which Mrs. Millin pioneered was fol-
lowed by other writers. In the 1930’s another Jew, Henry John
May (pseudonym of Herzl Schlosberg, eminent constitutional
lawyer), opened a new vein in South African literature. In
collaboration with Grenfell Williams, he wrote
I am Black,
the
first novel which attempted to look at South African life from
the black man’s point of view. I t sought to portray the dif-
Acuities and humiliations experienced by a tribal African step-
ping into the white man’s world.
More powerful in its realism and its understanding of the
African mind was a later work by a Jewish writer—
Black Anger
by Wulf Sachs (first published in 1937 as
Black Hamlet).
With
insight and without exaggeration, Dr. Sachs delineated the
conditions under which many Africans live. He peopled his
books with real characters—prototypes of the denizens of Alex-
andra, Orlando and Sophiatown. He did not idealize, against
the picture of African life in Johannesburg, the life in the
kraals; he depicted the crisis and misery precipitated by drought,
the agricultural poverty, the burden of taxation. This book
is deeper in its human reach, stronger in its psychological
approach, than Alan Paton’s more sentimental
Cry the Beloved
Country,
which, however, far outstripped it in popularity.
Also dealing with the impact of the white man’s world on
the black man are three other novels by Jewish writers: Phyllis
Altman’s
Law of the Vultures,
Harry Bloom’s
Episode
and
Sylvester Stein’s
Second Class Taxi.
Stein’s is a satirical treat-
ment, against Phyllis Altman’s more solid delineation and
Bloom’s graphic dramatization (although Bloom mars his work
by touches of propaganda).
Another Jewish writer who has written with sympathy and
understanding of South African life is Lewis Sowden. His
Family Cromer
is a memorable novel about a typical Rand
town. In his
The Crooked Bluegum
he turned his literary
acumen to the Johannesburg scene, focusing on an area where
whites and non-whites live in close proximity, and depicting,
with considerable poignancy, the tensions between them. Mr.
Sowden has also written a compact, non-fictional study of the
country,
South African Union,
and a book of poetry,
Poems
with Flute
(the latter contains, inter alia, some sensitive verse
on Jewish themes), as well as a play,
The Kimberley Train,
which brought the problem of colored blood onto the stage
in a way that was new to the South African theatre.
Most brilliant of the younger generation of South African
English writers is another Jewess, Nadine Gordimer. Her
essential metier is the short story. Her first book,
Face to Face