Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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Dr. Harold Fisch, in his book on the Jew in English Literature,
finds Golding’s works “lack the seriousness, the depth, the vivid
and strikingly Jewish humour of Zangwill’s genuinely classical
work.” Alexander Baron placed Golding in his period. “He
belonged in spirit to a period more pleasant than our own, the
1920’s, and he had a talent common among writers of that time
but almost unknown today—the ability to fulfil the public role of
a man of letters. Even the younger writers, whose nature it is
to tear their seniors to bits, were disarmed by Golding, for he
always treated them with kindness and respect.” I t is what I
would have expected from Baron. He is one of our more solid
writers who knows how to build character and put flesh on
real people, and at the same time tells a story.
With such an outlook and such gifts it is not surprising that
Baron looks back nostalgically to the Victorian-Edwardian period.
“What a golden age it was!” And perhaps it is as well to have
him put them in their place when there is so much hullaballoo
about the younger, noisier writers, some of whom belong, I fear,
to the era of the pop-singer. “We are great ones for blowing
our own trumpet,” he says, “and we parade our Anglo-Jewish
writers. But they are all of small stature. Most of them have
added nothing to English literature. The best are second-raters.
English Jewry has produced only two writers in whose work a
gleam of genius is discernible—the poet Rosenberg, cut off in his
youth, and Zangwill in
Children of the Ghetto
." Of course, Zang-
will though born nearly a hundred years ago—his centenary is
two years hence, in 1964—comes within the period of Anglo-
Jewish literature since 1920, as the younger Rosenberg does not,
for he was killed in the war in 1918. Zangwill died in 1926,
working up to the year of his death. One of his major works,
The Voice of Jerusalem,
appeared in 1920.
This brings me to a further consideration, more sociological
than literary but with bearings on literary subject matter and
approach. Gerda Charles, an able young woman from whom
I expect good work including, I hope, a story about my boyhood
friend Isaac Rosenberg, was speculating about “the amount of
Jewish talent which has sprung up. This upsurge of talent, while
marvellous, is also mystifying,” she says. “Because the question
which immediately springs to mind is: Why now? Well, 1 don’t
pretend to know the absolute explanation. People will tell you
that it’s third generation Jewry, now deeply enough rooted to
be creative.” She finds it “a somewhat inadequate explanation.”
Children of Immigrants
I don’t know how many of the younger Anglo-Jewish writers
are third or even second generation. Zangwill, Rosenberg, Gold­