Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
still appear, infrequently in England, and it is still correct for
academic critics to praise them. Yet an experimental novel in
these days has a curiously outmoded fabricated air.”
Angry Young Men
I t is against this kind of consideration that Anglo-Jewish
writing since the 20’s must be judged. The recent proliferation
of new talents in Anglo-Jewry stems largely from the general
eruption of the “angry young men” who began with Osborne’s
Look Back in Anger.
I t goes back further, to Brecht in Germany.
“From his successes,” said a recent writer in
The (London) Times,
“arose in England schools of production and playwriting fathered
on the master, without doing him credit.” I t is easier than young
writers realise to win temporary success by jumping on the
band-wagon of a passing fashion. They are swept along by the
heady onrush. I have sat with Louis Zangwill, who had once
been a successful novelist, challenging the fame of his brother
Israel, and he struggled hard to remember the names of some
of the big reputations of his day whom even he who had lived
among them had forgotten. Incidentally, since we think of Israel
Zangwill now chiefly in relation to his masterpiece
of the Ghetto
and his other Jewish work, I might recall that
as a young man he was more identified with what Holbrook
Jackson in
The Eighteen Nineties
calls “the Zeitgeist of the
decade, the spirit of the times,” and he includes him in that
respect with Joseph Conrad, A. E. Housman, Barrie, W. H.
Hudson, Conan Doyle, Jerome K. Jerome. He was indeed one
of the brilliant young men of the time, says Holbrook Jackson,
who dazzled with their achievements. Holbrook Jackson spoke
to me a great deal about those early days of Zangwill’s fame
outside the Jewish field. For some years he had done no Jewish
work; he had belonged to the group that was labelled “the New
Humour” with, says Jackson, “the amusing tales of Jerome K.
Jerome, W. W. Jacobs, Israel Zangwill, J. M. Barrie, Pett Ridge
and Barrie Pain, which were as much a characteristic of the
Nineties as the problem novel.”
Some of our angry young writers today think they have in-
vented the game of shocking the middle class. I turn to Holbrook
The Eighteen Nineties
and find him writing of “the
younger generation who had the necessity of shocking thrust
upon them by the unimaginative opposition their demand for
more life encountered at the hands of the autocracy of elderly
respectability. It was really a contest between the stupidity of
vitality and the vitality of stupidity.” Tha t was over 70 years
ago. Perhaps Alexander Baron is right about our present batch