Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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any young people about such as we had been. I was able to tell
him of a group with which I was in touch, including Simon
Blumenfeld, Ashley Smith, Gerald Kersh and Willie Goldman,
who were beginning to come into prominence. I remember Blu-
menfeld’s
Jew Boy
hailed as a “ferocious first novel, about the
tailor’s sweatshop—the author has so obviously written of all that
he knew, that reality sweeps out from every line.” Twenty years
later Emanuel Litvinoff could dismiss the whole lot and tell
us that we were at “the Dead End,” because “with the exception
of Willie Goldman whose full talent was only sustained for one
book we have had in the past twenty years nothing that could
relieve the grimness.”
Emanuel Litvinoff, who belonged to a slightly later generation,
soon after found himself in a tussle with John Wain who had
wondered “if the 60’s will think us—in the 50’s—as silly as we
think the 30’s.” He reminded Wain that the young people of
the 30’s could see the swift doom of the 1939 war approaching.
Yet Litvinoff realised “that it is fashionable now for the wounded
liberals and fellow-travellers approaching middle age to apologise
for their embarrassing youthful passions.” Since he wrote this
nearly ten years ago, Litvinoff has become conscious of his own
approaching middle age.
This is one consistent feature in our lives and in our art, that
we all age and come to be regarded as old fogeys by those who
are younger. I remember when the young people of the 1914-18
war period, my generation, were the last word in modernism,
abreast of the stirring times in which we lived. Not long ago
I came upon a review of a new book by someone who had fought
in that war, recalling the story of his fighting days—and the
reviewer called it “a war which now seems as remote as Han-
nibal’s march through the Alps.” Binyon was being falsely
romantic in his famous lines about the First World War: “They
shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.” The years age
even those who died young, like Rosenberg and Owen and
Rupert Brooke. Time stales us all. The new generation is always
trying to open windows to let in fresh air. I seem to have been
living all my life in the midst of a revolution, of a new modernist
movement trying to overthrow the Establishment. I remember
Joyce and Ezra Pound and T . S. Eliot before the First World
War. My boyhood friend John Rodker was one of their group.
As Professor Jack Isaacs wrote in
The (London) Times
under
the heading “Literature in the Twenties” when Rodker died
in 1955, “with his friend Ezra Pound as sponsor he moved from
the earlier world of Imagism, from T. E. Hulme, Richard Aiding-
ton and F. S. Flint to the Egoist group. He had qualities that
made Ezra Pound say that Rodker had ‘more invention and
guts’ than many of his contemporaries.”