Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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less variety of writings, illustrating our contemporary restlessness,
social and individual disintegration, lack of faith, anxious quest,
hope, despair, or else compromise and evasion.”
The Danger of Dismissing New Writers
I have been editorially rebuked in the
Jewish Quarterly
“in his eagerness to discover and encourage new and young
writers Mr. Leftwich is sometimes content with mere quantity.
This is a danger,” I was warned, though it was added, “a danger
less serious than that of dismissing wholesale new and young
writers.” My fault, I have been told, is trying to present ducks
as swans, and I have retorted that what I am trying to do is to
avoid presenting our ducks as sparrows.
Even sparrows are necessary to life. In no business of life, in
writing like any other, is it expected that everybody must be
at the top of the tree. Literature was never the affair only of the
great immortals. There must be others working with them in the
field to till and cultivate, to learn from and excel. I once
suggested that it is snobbery to expect every Anglo-Jewish writer
to be a marketable genius. Writers who are not geniuses are
also important in the life of a people and a community, just
ordinary competent writers. I t requires talent and honesty to be
a competent writer. I turn again to Alexander Baron, who found
it necessary to complain against the “thousands of people who
think they can write and suffer from the illusion that they can
become professional writers. Some have genuine but feeble or
infrequent talents and apparently consider that it is worth the
community’s while to keep them. Many see themselves as frus-
trated geniuses.” I have in my time seen some of these frustrated
geniuses, not only Jewish, some with genuine talent and with
brilliant promise, who suddenly went dead and disappeared.
Their store of talent gave out very soon, while others who started
with less apparent promise stayed the course. “Nothing strikes
one more in the race of life,” says Oliver Wendell Holmes, “than
to see how many give out in the first half of the course.”
Prophecy is a dangerous occupation and I am no prophet
nor the son of a prophet, but for what my judgement is worth
I would suggest that of the present group of Anglo-Jewish writers
who command attention Alexander Baron, Wolf Mankowitz,
Arnold Wesker and Gerda Charles may stay the course. And Dan
Jacobson, who though he lives in London still confines himself
to his native South African scene. And of course, Arthur Koestler,
who too though living here does not write of Anglo-Jewry; and
Arthur Waley, whose work is not in Anglo-Jewry either bu t in