Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

Basic HTML Version

tion camps and probably was too young to remember Jewish
wartime events. Some had qualms about the extent of his knowl­
edge of Judaism. Nevertheless, Schwartzbart’s book is the first
recognized literary treatment of the Jewish catastrophe. Since
its publication, nothing has been heard of the author.
Elie Wiesel is also well known. His trilogy,
Night, Dawn
and
Day,
is now being supplemented. Born in Hungary, Elie Wiesel
has known Auschwitz as a child. Later he came to France and
became a French writer. Despite settling in America, he still
writes in French. Wiesel is not only a witness; he tries to find a
meaning. Or can there be a meaning if God is dead?
Another author who did not achieve spectacular success but
whose importance cannot be underestimated, is Manes Sperber.
His
Qu’une larme dans VOcean
ranks, at least for me, higher
than most of the preceding contributions. Sperber’s novel gives
a metaphysical dimension to the
Hurban.
His relative lack of
success may derive from his intelligence and lucidity.
Numerous other authors tried to walk in the footsteps of the
aforementioned. The undertaking was, however, too great and
there seems no reason to attribute any special value to their
endeavor. The only major exception was Jules Isaac, by no
means a young author. After a successful career as a historian,
he was reminded of his Jewish origin and tried to understand
why his family had been killed. Finding the major part of the
answer in historic Christian anti-Semitism, he spent his last
years in an effort to have Christian teachings changed about the
Jews.
Others tried to go back to Jewish sources. Tha t is how a
number of Jewish classics—Bahya’s
Duties of the Heart,
Rashi’s
commentary on the Torah—were translated into French. Andre
Neher, professor of Jewish literature at Strasbourg University
and a brilliant essayist, attempted in a number of recent pub­
lications to make Jewish tradition relevant to this generation.
A number of influences—among them contemporary existential­
ism and Buberism rank first—are noticeable in his work.
The only really new interpretation of Judaism is Emmanuel
Levinas’
Difficile liberte,
in itself an oddity in this neo-mystical
and sometimes pseudo-hasidic age. Here is a thinker who pro­
claims the primacy of Jewish intellectualism. In his collection
of essays he claims classical Jewish literature as the guide of
contemporary Judaism. For Levinas the way was shown by the
Tannaim
and
Amorain.
The French Jewish Press
The brilliance of these few French Jewish writers makes one
well aware of their very small number. The recent election of
SCHWARZFUCHS — JEWISH LITERATURE IN FRANCE
23