Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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interest. For all the modernistic talk about the “new novel,”
which is supposed to have superseded Dickens and Hardy and
Wells and Conrad and Bennett and Zangwill, Storm Jameson
has found the average reader often puzzled by it. She tried it
on an imaginary Mr. Robinson, and he said “gloomily, ‘I sup-
pose someone reads these books’.”
It is possible that Zangwill’s name has filtered through more
than we realise to the ordinary man, and particularly to the
ordinary Jew. One doesn’t keep on shrugging off someone non-
existent as some of the scornful young Anglo-Jewish writers keep
shrugging off Zangwill. Tha t young man of twenty-three may
despise Zangwill, but he could not have “forgotten” him, as he
said he had: “He is forgotten. Nobody under fifty reads him
today.” He must even have tried to read him, else how could he
judge that his “novels are dreary beyond belief”? I get about a
good deal, and constantly hear references to Zangwill and his
books; I still see them on the shelves of people half my age. The
name has at least come through somehow to the younger people.
In Israel they have named a street after him. I have walked in
that street in Tel Aviv, and last week I received a Yiddish book
issued by the Menorah Publishers in Zangwill Street, Tel Aviv.
Zangwill would have liked that—Yiddish as well as Hebrew
books published in Israel. I have just re-read Zangwill’s letter
to Lucien Wolf in the Yiddish Supplement of the
Jewish Wor ld
in 1906, when Lucien Wolf edited the paper: “I have never
understood why a language spoken by perhaps half the Jewish
people should be regarded as a blasphemy. One great writer
in the language is enough to make it holy and immortal.”
As for his no longer being read, somebody quoted Meredith
saying towards the end of his life, “My name is celebrated, but
no one reads my books.” Zangwill is not a Meredith. Again, it
does not do him any good to pretend he is more than he is. But
Zangwill is well worth reading. He does not rank below Chester-
ton and Belloc and Galsworthy, even if we accept the verdict
that none of them are “men of genius but only men of great
talent.”
Zangwill3 s Unique Contribution
But whatever the ordinary English readers find in Zangwill,
the Jewish reader, especially the English and American Anglo-
Jewish reader, has something in Zangwill he cannot have in the
others. I believe that anyone who wants to know and understand
Jewish life in the English speaking countries must know Zang-
will. It is not Zangwill who is poorer for not being read by
them. I t is they who are poorer for not reading him. He has
said something in his books—his books of essays as much as his
novels—which makes us richer, more understanding, more knowl­