Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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POSTWAR JEWISH LITERATURE IN FRANCE
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death of Edmond Fleg and of Jules Isaac have
demonstrated that the Jewish literature in France today
is not the successor of the prewar production. Both men, both
giants of French Jewish literature, belonged to the same genera­
tion. Brought up before World War I, they witnessed the second
war and suffered under the German occupation. Both had known
Peguy and Dreyfus’s triumph. Yet, Fleg turned his interest to
Judaism, while Isaac wanted only to be a citizen of a world
civilized by 20th century progress. To the older generation of
Jewish writers, Judaism was a very important problem. To the
younger generation of which Isaac was a member it became a
matter of life and death. Where Fleg asked
Pourquoi je suis ju if
—“Why am I a Jew?,” others wanted to know: why, and not
only how, did I die a Jew?
Because of this dichotomous question, Jewish literature in
France took new directions after the war. With the desire to
explain came also the will to retain reminders of the past, and
a desire of the organized community to give its members reasons
to remain true to Judaism and to know its past.
One wonders if there was ever a time such as existed in Europe
after the war when the community, local or international, wished
to maintain its human values and to create new ones. Whatever
the success, an attempt was made to create a hothouse for promis­
ing young Jewish writers and to produce a new elite. An attempt
was made to organize French Jewish literary production, and
financial incentives were not neglected. Some wanted to set up
a system of scholarships; others tried to organize Jewish publish­
ing houses which, it was thought, would help Jewish authors
find publishers.
A very extensive scholarship system was set up by the Con­
ference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The fact
that two scholarship recipients, Andre Schwarzbart and Mrs.
Anna Langfus, wrote Jewish books which won the Prix Goncourt,
the French equivalent of the Pulitzer prize, indicates the high
measure of its success. It must be added that each found a pub­
lisher outside the Jewish community, which is after all quite
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