Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
8 6
As already intimated, the quality of these Jewish books varies
according to the ability and attitude of their authors. Thus a
good many of them are not only talented but highly serious, and
their works serve to enhance the image of the Jewish people.
Such authors of books published in the 1940’s were Harry A.
Wolfson, Koppel S. Pinson, Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer, Phi-
lipp Frank, Max Brod, Mordecai M. Kaplan, Carlo Levi, Arthur
Miller, Meyer Levin, Saul Bellow, Franz Werfel, Waldo Frank,
Maurice Samuel, Martin Buber, and Louis Finkelstein. Unfor-
tunately, a number of second generation writers of fiction are
more glib than knowledgeable about Jewish history and Jewish
character and consequently tended to distort and deride the
Jews they wrote about. Their books in the 1940’s and later, even
as a few in the 1920’s, are flawed by blurred vision and in a num-
ber of instances, by the effect of subconscious guilt—the inner
struggle between the influences of assimilation and the forced
dependence upon their Jewish experience for the material of
their stories. Thus in novels by Norman Katkov, A. Bernstein,
Harold Robbins, Irving Schulman, Daniel Taylor, Henry Denker,
Jerome Weidner, Budd Schulberg, Herman Wouk, Daniel Fuchs,
B. J. Friedman, and Jeremy Larner, Jews are depicted with little
sympathy and less sensitivity—endowing them with neither reality
nor dignity. By way of contrast with these books, which reveal
the ignorance, irritation, or sheer maladroitness of their authors,
one might mention several of the more truly felt and more crea-
tively expressed recent novels of Jewish content: Andre Schwartz-
Bart’s
The Last of the Just,
the brief but poignant narratives by
Elie Wiesel, Joanne Greenberg’s
The King’s Persons,
Saul Bel-
low’s
Herzog,
and Bernard Malamud’s
The Fixer.
Of interest also are the multivolume Jewish histories and
encyclopedias undertaken by such publishers as McGraw-Hill,
Prentice-Hall, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Rutgers University
Press, and Random House. These works of cooperative scholar-
ship, requiring a considerable outlay of capital and effort, are
additional evidence that books of Jewish content are now finding
a ready enough market to appeal to commercial publishers. Thus,
while as late as a quarter century ago a Jewish book was still
considered commercially unprofitable, today only the highly
specialized Jewish books—but no more than any other work of
restricted interest—will fail to attract an enterprising American
publisher.