Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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OHN Lehmann calls the first chapter in his Pelican paperback
New Writing in Europe
“The Background of the Twenties,”
pointing out that to understand the twenties and what followed
one must have in mind “the state of English literature in the
years between 1930 and the end of the war of 1914-18, and the
state of the world in which that literature formed itself.” As
Shelley said, “We look before and after.” We must glance both
at the roots and the fruits. When Yivo asked me some years
ago for the chapter on literature to a book on Whitechapel be-
tween 1881 and 1914, I started by sketching in the background
—what had brought the immigrants out and what they found
when they came. I said it was impossible not to overlap, as with
Louis Golding who had not been born in 1881 and had not
started serious writing in 1914, yet whose entire literary output
was already in the past.
Golding is dead only four years, and his writing began in the
20’s. It was then that I first met him. We were both associated
with Tom Moult’s
Voices,
where he was serialising his
Forward
From Babylon.
His
Magnolia Street,
which established him, ap-
peared in 1932; his
Moses
books, which I think his best work,
and his tales from Jewish folklore about Moses and the wonders
he wrought, belong to the 30’s.
The Glory of Elsie Silver,
the
book he considered in a letter to me “the most important as well
as the best novel on a Jewish theme I have yet written,” belongs
to the 40’s. “I t is the story of the Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto,”
he told me while writing it; my copy is inscribed “For my friend
Joseph Leftwich who gave me more than one thread through
the dark mazes of Warsaw.”
There are widely differing opinions about the value of Gold-
ing’s work. Gerda Charles, one of the younger Anglo-Jewish
novelists, confided to me recently that she couldn’t see anything
lasting in Golding. Hilda Lewis, on the other hand, while
denigrating Zangwill, whom Golding revered, gave it as her
opinion that “Golding with his gallery of provincial lower class
Jews, beautifully rounded and fully human, has helped to lift
the Jew to the full stature of humanity.” Against that impression
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