Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
element in us. We practically never make great, vague, fancy
statements of the . . . “Man is . . .” such and such, or “Man
must . .
this or that. Jewish stories are always about
men and women faced with the particular predicaments
and decisions of their every day lives. In a world where
experience seems to be more overlooked in favour of group
preoccupation Jewish writers are still (perhaps even more so
than ever) concerned with the absurdities, the trials, the humil-
iations, the sometimes wretched expediencies we all have to
accommodate ourselves to in every day life.
Again, we do not glorify war. Even in such short stories as
I have read dealing with the Israeli war, the tone is on the
whole anti-heroic. In a very fine short story called “T h e Pris-
oner” by one of the foremost Israeli writers, Yizhar, he is con-
cerned with the ethics of punishing one harmless man—a pris-
oner the Israelis have captured—for the sins of the other side.
Yizhar’s strength is that he
the other side. In general, the
Jewish temper is sweet rather than militant. There has always
been in us a contempt for the military mind, a questioning
even in Babel’s work (much of which appears to express admi-
ration for the Cossack) of “heroic” values. It is even possible
that this subconsciously felt contempt played its part in recent
history by aggravating feelings of hatred and revenge in the
military-worshipping German mind.
This quality of sweetness which I have mentioned is still
one of the most important ingredients in the Jewish short
story of today. In this country where—despite the “new wave”—
Jewish writers are still a very small group and of that group not
many write short stories anyway, it can be found in the work
of Wolf Mankowitz (though there it is mixed I think with
whimsy which weakens it) and more successfully in the beauti-
ful stories of Alexander Baron.
The most technically assured of our writers in the short
story field at the moment is, however, Brian Glanville. You
may or you may not like Mr. Glanville’s novels. But the short
stories in his recently published volume are, 1 would say, on
the whole extremely good. He is not a “sweet” writer, I admit.
But he is, in his short stories anyway, an extremely perceptive
one. Though his view of Jewish life may not be so wide as it
should be, w ithin his limits he is very good indeed. I would
particularly recommend the story called “A Betting Man” from
his recent collection, which conjures up a certain kind of Jewish
family life that could hardly be presented with more accuracy.
“The family” has, of course, always been predominant in
Jewish stories—as it is in Jewish life. An enormous number of
our modern Jewish stories are still obsessed with it. Both Nadine
Gordimer and Dan Jacobson, two South African writers, have