Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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L
e f t w ic h
— A
ng lo
-J
e w i s h
L
itera ture
2 7
ing and several others were the children of immigrants, brought
up in Yiddish-speaking foreign immigrant homes. “Isaac Rosen-
berg’s father could hardly speak English, though he wrote poetry
in Yiddish and Hebrew,” Patric Dickinson found it necessary
to explain in a broadcast on Rosenberg. He feeels that the
English “Isaac used is a language brilliant and exotic. Rosenberg
was an original genius; but he is totally outside the English
tradition.”
Golding was born in Manchester “a year or two,” he said, “after
my family had immigrated there. My father taught Hebrew.”
He was a
melamed
and his native tongue was Yiddish. Zangwill’s
father was an immigrant who spoke English badly; his natural
tongue, too, was Yiddish. I have been looking at a speech Zang-
will delivered in 1904 at a dinner the Maccabeans gave the
Anglo-Jewish novelist Samuel Gordon. He pointed out that not
only Gordon’s parents but Gordon himself were foreign born.
“I t remains a miracle,” he said, “that coming here only 17 years
ago, unable to understand a word of English, he has now written
half a dozen successful English novels.”
I t raises an important question in my mind. Professor Walsh,
reviewing a book by an Indian novelist, R. K. Narayan, made
this point: “Mr. Narayan uses a pure and limpid English, easy
and natural in its run and tone, but always an evolved and
conscious medium, abstracted from the context in which it was
generated—the history, the social condition, the weather, the
racial memory. I t is free from the foggy taste running through
every phrase of our own English. Unaffected by the opacity
of a British inheritance, Mr. Narayan’s language is beautifully
adapted to communicate a different, an Indian sensibility.”
In the 30’s an English writer friend, Arthur K. Chesterton,
told me of one of my books that he found it “fascinating and
disconcerting, in that music is skilfully made out of the English
language to express things which are remote and have in them
no savour whatever of England.” Another friend, St. John Ervine,
to whom I put this question, assured me that he found nothing
remote from his own mind in my work. Leyeless, an American
Yiddish writer of distinction, President of the Yiddish Centre
in International PEN, reviewing a book of mine in 1960 in a
Yiddish paper, said: “If it is possible to write Yiddish in the
words of another language, in English, Leftwich has done this.”
Is this what Patric Dickinson means when he calls Isaac Rosen-
berg’s English “exotic, totally outside the English tradition”?
Is it what Michael Sadleir meant when he reviewed Robert
Henriques’s
Through the Valley,
that “though the picture of
England is painted with compassion, at times with fond despair,
and always with affection, it is not an English picture”? Is that
what the editorial writer in the
Listener
meant when he wrote