Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
that “Namier (Professor Sir Lewis Namier, the historian, who
assimilated even into the Church) was a cosmopolitan Jew who
became an English gentleman”? Is it what people mean when
they call Disraeli the “Alien Patriot,” though he and his father
were English born and his grandfather came to England as a
boy of eighteen? “In his real nature,” says Froude, “Disraeli
remained a Jew, and his thoughts ran on Asiatic rather than on
European lines.”
Not only Disraeli but also other early Anglo-Jewish writers
—Grace Aguilar, Amy Levy and S. L. Bensusan—were not of
recent immigrant stock. And though Robert Henriques’s family
has lived in England for nearly 300 years, his picture of England
seems to Sadleir “not an English picture.” One is therefore not
surprised when Allen Pryce-Jones refers to Wesker’s play
About Jerusalem
as “vibrantly Jewish,” and suggests that English
actors can’t get it over, that the play calls for Jewish actors. The
same approach comes from our own writers. “You know, I suspect
I'm more Jewish than I think I am,” Wesker is reported to have
said. And speaking of his grandfathers, “I suppose their Jewish
feeling must have been handed down to me subconsciously. At
any rate, this shows in some of the imagery I use.” I t shows also
in language. Emanuel Litvinoff, writing about Mankowitz’s
Bespoke Overcoat
which he considers “a small masterpiece,” calls
its language “pure Anglo-Yiddish.”
Yet this Jewish feeling which supposedly differentiates Jewish
understanding from the universal understanding, seems quite
comprehensible to non-Jews. So, at least to Alan Sillitoe, who
finds no difficulty in understanding Conrad’s
“Conrad could not forget that he was born in Russia, that he
was 22 at the assassination of Alexander II and that his parents
had died through Tsarist persecution” ; or in understanding
Good Soldier Schweik,
about “the oppressed of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire”; or “the shtetels described by Sholom
Aleichem, an author who gives the same humour and human
warmth as Hasek. Sholom Aleichem’s heroes are never outsiders,”
he says, “in the sense of Camus’s famous hero. I felt a semblance
of spirit to the people in Sholom Aleichem, so that any volume
of his so far unread may become another of my favourite books.”
The Young Anglo-Jewish Writers
This brings us to the heart of the matter, to something I have
several times quoted from Quiller-Couch about Ruth gleaning
in the fields of Boaz being equally intelligible to English readers
as is Hardy’s Tess. The young Anglo-Jewish writers have been
making considerable noise in the last few years about their