Page 66 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
58
(published overseas as
The Soft Voice of the Serpent),
im-
mediately stamped her as a writer of quality, possessing a
rich and forceful style and penetrating powers of observation.
In this book, and even more so in
Six Feet of the Country,
her chiselled stories capture significant moments of human
experience with the precision of a camera—but also, at her
best, with an artistry that transcends the camera’s range. She
is not so successful in her novels,
The Lying Days
and
A World
of Strangers,
where, in spite of much good writing, her char-
acters fail to develop adequately, and the sequence of separate
events is not sufficiently linked organically. Strangely, for a
Jewess, she is least successful when depicting Jewish characters;
the few Jews who enter her work have an air of burlesque
about them.
A rising Jewish figure among the younger South African
writers is Dan Jacobson who, at thirty-one, already has five
books to his credit:
The Trap, A Dance in the Sun, The Price
of Diamonds, No Farther West
and
A Long Way from London
(published in America as
The Zulu and the Zaide).
Jacobson
captures with considerable power the hot, dry, rural environ-
ment, the sense of tension between whites and non-whites, the
implicit possibility of violence. He is not so successful in depict-
ing the South African urban scene, nor in portraying Jewish
characters in the city setting.
On South African Jewish Life
As mentioned at the outset, only a few Jewish writers have
attempted to extract the distinctive flavor of South African
Jewish life. Here the outstanding achievement is Albert Segal’s
Johannesburg Friday,
a sincere and moving study of a Johan-
nesburg Jewish family. The old Leventhals, mother and father,
their sons and daughters, and particularly Mrs. Leventhal’s
favorite son Laurie, are real people, such as you can meet any
day in a Johannesburg street; so are the non-Jews, black as well
as white, who come into the picture. Segal writes about them
with love, compassion and understanding. Arthur Markowitz
has portrayed some of the less savory aspects of urban Jewish
life in his novels,
Facing North
(published in America as
Mother and Daughter)
and
Market Street.
Meir Davidson has
introduced some of the humor of South African Jewish life
in his two books of short stories,
My Jewish Clients
and
Jewish
Merry-go-round.
He has an O. Henryish twist to many of his
tales; to some extent, he does for the Jewish business “types”
of Johannesburg what Montagu Glass did for their equivalent
in New York. David Dainow has written a lighter humorous
work in
Our Shadchan.
Rabbi Jacob Newman has captured
types of countryside Jews in his volume of sketches,
With Ink