Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

Basic HTML Version

JEWISH SHORT STORY WRITERS*
B
y
G
e r d a
C
h a r l e s
I
N 1933 Mr. Joseph Leftwich published an anthology of short
stories by Jewish writers entitled
Yisroel.
Today, nearly thirty
years later, 1 am myself in the middle of editing a smaller and
more modest volume of the same kind; that is, short stories by
Jewish writers. Now Mr. Leftwich’s job at that time differed
from and was perhaps made a little easier than mine since he
did not lim it himself by the word “modern” and so was able to
make his selection over a much wider period than I am able to.
His range extended for instance over the whole of the 19th
century whereas I am confining myself not exactly to red-hot
contemporary, but roughly speaking to modern stories. Th is
difference apart, however, there are still, when comparing Mr.
Leftwich’s job then with mine now, certain interesting, poign-
ant and I think important facts to be observed. I add the word
“important” because in a sense these facts are history.
In 1933 Mr. Leftwich was able to include eighteen stories
by German-Jewish authors; some of them of the very highest
rank. Today I am finding the greatest difficulty in getting hold
of even two good contemporary stories from this source, or
indeed from any German-speaking country.
In 1933 the Yiddish section of
Yisroel
contained twenty-two
stories of extremely high, indeed, classic quality. Today I am
experiencing a certain difficulty in finding contemporary Yid-
dish stories of suitable standard. Both the French and the Rus-
sian fields, compared with what they were, have appreciably
diminished. On the other hand, all the English-speaking writers
have suddenly begun to increase so rapidly that there seem to be
no boundaries within sight. These facts tell their own story. They
are what I mean by “history.”
There is also, however, another highly significant difference
between Mr. Leftwich’s task and mine. I have already twice
used the phrase “short stories by Jewish writers” because I
think it adequately describes the material Mr. Leftwich was
able to get hold of when he was compiling
Yisroel.
But as a
* This article is the text of a lecture delivered during Jewish Book Week
in 1962 in London.
5