Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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Chinese poetry. “There are those who believe”—I am quoting—
“that Arthur Waley is one of the major English poets and most
delightful of prose artists, and the greatest translator and in-
terpreter of Chinese and Japanese classics.” He has a good deal
of Jewish knowledge, too. He has dipped into the Talmudic
sea, and he knows Yiddish and admires Yiddish literature; when
Itzik Manger lived in London he saw a good deal of him and
spoke highly of his poetry.
At this point I think I might quote Mankowitz, whom I first
met when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge and only
thinking of becoming a writer. I hope what he says is equally
true of the others to whom I look for the future of Anglo-Jewish
writing: “As a writer who has never attempted to conceal his
Jewishness, the suggestion that my work is unacceptable to
Jewish readers is distressing to me.” But “as a writer I propose
to write with honesty of the things I know. If I must lose one
section of the public by doing so, I will have to sustain the loss.”
And this from Alexander Baron: “The Jewish writer’s first
duty is always to tell the truth. He must show truthfully what
‘makes people tick.’ The novelist’s social task is to illuminate
human nature. It is at this point that the Jewish writer comes
into conflict with many Jewish readers who expect every Jewish
character to be perfect. The Jewish writer is supposed to be
honest about his non-Jews and a propagandist about his Jews.”
I have been looking through
The (London) Times
survey of
the novels of the year 1961 and I find none of our Anglo-Jewish
writers mentioned in that long list. It is headed by Evelyn
Waugh’s
Unconditional Surrender
and Graham Greene’s
Burnt
Out Case,
with several “other strong contenders in the top league”
including a book on a Jewish theme by a non-Jewish writer,
Patrick White’s
Riders of the Chariot.
I have not read the book,
but Gerda Charles praised it highly: “The detailed Jewish content
of this novel by a non-Jew is incredibly well done.” I said none
of our Anglo-Jewish writers is in the list. There is one though
he is hardly a writer we usually include among them, Maurice
Edelman, who writes novels of Parliamentary life.
The (London)
Times
includes his book
The Minister
as “a most readable story.”
He is the only one in that long list.
It is a sobering reflection. If there is anything else that is
hearteningly humble about our younger Anglo-Jewish writers
it is Mankowitz writing of Zangwill: “No one has recorded East
End life better than Israel Zangwill—and no one ever will. For
the East End village community,” he explains, “has been scat-
tered by war and dispersed by prosperity and education. So that
Zangwill’s writings have value as history as well as literature.”