Page 119 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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113
L
e f tw ic h
— I
srael
Z
a ngw il l
of the East End. I married, and when my first child was about
to be born I moved to a London suburb. Sometimes I felt I
could hardly breathe that freer lighter air. As if only the air
of the East End could charge my heart and mind. For twenty
years I have not entered the East End. I have come back. And
I shall show you as much of the new East End and perhaps
bring back as many echoes of the old East End as I can.” Ashley
Smith got something of that spirit into his book. Alexander
Baron, who is one of the most promising of the new crop of
Anglo-Jewish writers, found as I did much more in Ashley
Smith’s book than the average reviewer saw. “Only,” Baron
wrote to me, “it doesn’t cover the ground I ’m thinking of.” He
suggested that only a Zangwill could do justice to it.
I said that Zangwill, having been over the ground before, has
in a way laid down the lines on which the later writers of that
scene must move. Alexander Baron has just published a new
book,
The Lowl i fe ,
and this is what a critic in a London daily
begins with: “East End comedy has attracted a long line of
writers from Zangwill to Wolf Mankowitz. The newest comer
to this field is Alexander Baron, who first made his mark with
From the City from the Plough,
a sensitive war novel. He is
being boosted by his publishers as the Damon Runyon of Hack-
ney. Knowing this author, there will be a serious lining to the
farce.” Zangwill’s touch clings to the scene. “Curious blend of
Proust and Zangwill,” says another reviewer of Jacqueline
Shohet’s
Jacob’s Ladder.
Always, with every new Anglo-Jewish
novel the critics apply the measure of Zangwill’s name. The
Anglo-Jewish novelists do it themselves, like Marghanita Laski
hailing James Yaffe as having produced “the best Jewish stories
I remember reading since Zangwill.”
“Children of the Ghetto”
Alexander Baron spoke rather critically of Zangwill at a meet-
ing held by the Anglo-Jewish Association in 1958. He began by
saying rightly: “I t is my intention to approach the writings of
Zangwill critically. There can be no greater insult to a writer
than to overpraise him. To do so is to fail to take him seriously.”
He went on to suggest that Zangwill for “the bulk of his work
is one of the many writers who pursue their craft honourably,
perhaps with notable success, but whose reputations die like the
may-fly. So we would have to judge,” he went on, “if it were
not for one of his works,
Children of the Ghet to.
I have read it
for the fourth time. I can rarely re-read books. But for the fourth
time I read
Chi ldren of the Ghet to.
And for the fourth time it
moved me almost—sometimes in fact—to tears. To me this is a
work of art.” I shall not quote all Baron’s address, but I must