Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

Basic HTML Version

S
p iceh an d ler
— I
sr a e l i
N
o v e l ist s
4 1
society—the suffering, working immigrant masses who toil to
support the new Israeli upper crust.
“Only now did he understand his life . . . and the ru ination
which certain people wished to visit on the country. It is his
country, his; and those pale workers in the diamond works, they
are his brothers. . . . He w ill be w ith them wherever he w ill live.
The whole country is his home."
But here he breaks w ith the non-politicalism of his English
contemporaries:
“Today he w ill jo in those who fight against the monstrosity___
He w ill not let those welcoming committees occupy his place. He
has his own weapons. Who says he must sing sweet songs? He’ll
write about his life, the years that followed the war, years that
were an endless escapism. . . . He w ill weave every fiber of wisdom
he has acquired, which he plucked with his nails into a thick rope.
He w ill tell his story so that they might understand their life.
And once they understand perhaps they might know how to
change it."
The word “perhaps" is indicative of Bartov ’s uncertainty as
to whether social action can rea lly change the predetermined
order of things. In his second novel Shesh Kenafaim Le-ehad
(“One Had Six W ings”), he returns to the theme of redemption
through identification w ith the downtrodden immigrant masses.
This novel does contain an example of successful social action—a
mass demonstration on behalf of an unlicensed baker—but again
one is left with the impression that the victory was merely a minor
concession of the “system” and that Bartov finds real meaning
only in a folkist, prim itivist identification w ith the illiterate and
real refugee masses—the white negroes, if you will, of the new
Israel.
Another attempt to deal with the problems of “the ingathering
of the exiles,” is Jud ith Handel’s Rehov Hamadregot (“Stairway
Street”). The theme is an inter-communal love affair between an
Ashkenazi girl and a Sefardi. Her work demonstrates both the
good and the bad writing of the Sabra school. Her characteriza­
tion is flat and undeveloped. Whenever the narrative lags she
escapes into descriptive writing. Aharon Megged attempts to deal
with the new value system of the rising Israeli bourgeoisie
through a satirical novel. His Hedvah Ve-ani (“Hedvah and I”)
is an entertaining book and contains a great deal of social
criticism. Humor, however, is a very dangerous literary tool, and
in this work Megged rarely rises above the level of delightful
hilarity.
Of all these treatments, then, Bartov’s remains the most serious,
but he too hardly exceeds the bounds of accepted literary
formulae. The core question remained unanswered. W hy did
ideology fail once the state emerged?