Page 71 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 2

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community with the Jewish destiny whether in my blood or darkly founded in
tradition. Was it not my people that, again and again, had been conquered by
all other peoples, again and again, and yet outlasted them because of some secret
power — that power of transforming defeat through will, of withstanding it again
and again? Had they not presaged, our prophets, this perpetual hunt and persecu-
tion that today again scatters us upon the highways like chaff, and had they not
affirmed this submission to power, and even blessed it as a way to good? Had trial
not eternally been of profit to all and to the individual? Happily, I realized this
while working at my drama, the first of all my works that means something to
Anticipating the impending fall of semi-Fascist Austria, Zweig moved to England
where he remained till 1940. Although he had become a British subject, he regarded
himself a “man without a country,” and although he could have gained strength
and self-reliance from fighting the enemy of mankind, he “ abstained as much as
possible from taking sides, interfering in the great conflicts of the epoch, taking
public action as some of us have thought necessary to do at crucial moments,”
as his friend, Jules Romain once complained “ to such an extent that he has been
accused here and there of excessive prudence.”
— A
l f r e d
e r n e r
i n
Congress Weekly
L u d w i g L e w i s o h n .
New York.
T h e D i a l P r e s s ,
New York (1942). Philadelphia (1942).
T h e J e w i s h P u b l i c a t i o n
S o c i e t y o f A m e r i c a .
On the face of it this is a historical romance, laid in France about the year 1770 —
a tale by turns idyllic and lyric, picturesque and picaresque, dramatic and even
melodramatic. Written by one of our fine stylists and a past master of the art of
fiction, it is of course an absorbing tale, beautifully told. And it might be read
merely as such a tale — it might even conceivably have reached the screen as a
first-rate motion picture — were it not that its hero happens to be a Jew. Since
it is a story of a Jew who left Jewry to live in the Gentile world and was driven,
outwardly and inwardly, to return to the fold and faith of his fathers, no reader
of any imagination, certainly no Jewish reader, can fail to see in it a parable
significant for us in these times.
Vidal, erstwhile lover of reason and freedom, returns not simply to Judaism but
to a particularly mystical Jewish cult concerned with the promise of
olom ha bo
“ the world to come,” than with the problems of this world; and in the second
place, Vidal, the Jew, is saved from destruction by a Gentile who has been con-
verted to Judaism. And if these events were to be considered allegorically they
must — it seemed to this reader — be taken to indicate to present-day Jews,
first, that our only recourse from disappointment in the failure of contemporary
liberalism, with its yet unfulfilled promise of full freedom and progress toward the
true brotherhood of man, lies in the consolation of an other-worldly religion; and
then, that our only hope in
world lies in Gentile conversion to Judaism.
To this reader such a conclusion to the apparent allegory was not acceptable.
I t is easily understandable that in a world so terribly torn by conflict as is ours
the longing for peace would lead some Jews to dream of a human harmony created
by the conversion of other cults to ours; but one has only to consider that Nazi
totalitarianism is (as was fifteenth-century Catholicism) essentially jus t such a
dream, to realize how dangerous a conversion complex can become.
I t was when Joshua Vidal, renouncing reason, turned to a mystical escapist
Judaism rather than to that humanistic Judaism which, since Moses, has been
for enlightenment and freedom — it was when, unlike Moses, Joshua
Vidal turned away in disappointment from the backsliding of his fellow-men and
“ stood aside from the practical affairs of the world”— that this reader saw him as
an unregenerate renegade, a renegade not merely from Jewry but from all mankind.
I t was then, reflecting on the behavior of disappointed liberals like Joshua Vidal
in our time, this reader concluded that they were actuated by
which the
patience and persistence not only of Moses but of God Almighty should put to
r v i n g
i n e m a n
i n
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