Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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Laplanders or Brazilians. There is nothing essentially Jewish
about them or the situations they get themselves into.
Post World War I I Fiction
This is where the post-World War II novels of Meyer Levin
stand out.
Eva, The Fanatic,
and
The Stronghold
are not merely
effective novels in varying degrees; they are thoroughly Jewish,
imbued with a profound yearning for justice, a pervading sense
of intimacy with God, an awareness of His involvement with the
human condition and His lovingkindness “despite all,” an ap-
parently limitless patience with the frequent indifference and
harshness of life, and an externally bubbling sense of humor
that serves as a haven of refuge at all times and everywhere and
under all conditions.
Not many Jewish American authors have been so Jewish as
Levin, certainly very few in the past quarter century. Even
Bernard Malamud, whose
Th e Fixer
is a fictional study of the
Mendel Beiliss case, is not the Jewish writer Levin is. In fact,
that is probably Malamud’s greatest fault. His people are Jewish
intellectually, almost accidentally, more by birth and environ-
ment than by total obsession and involvement. His people are
more human beings than they are Jewish human beings, and
paradoxically enough, this in the last analysis keeps them from
being enduring human beings. Shakespeare’s characters are uni-
versal human beings because they are first and last English
human beings. Tolstoy’s characters are universal human beings
because in their marrow they are Russian human beings. The
universal flowers from the particular. The universal has no ex■
istence in itself.
All the same, Malamud is one of the more serious novelists
in American Jewry who have won both critical acclaim and
popular acceptance. His first book about Jewish life,
The Assist-
an t,
is written somewhat barely. He had succumbed to a current
aberration—fear of adjectives and “other forms of sheer emo-
tionalism.” There is also the matter of the novel’s ending; it is
difficult to believe that the non-Jew who won the love of the
Jewish grocer’s daughter got himself circumcized. Still, Malamud
does manage to get into some areas of the wide field of tension
created by the endeavors of Jews who are torn between their
eagerness to maintain a relationship with their traditions and
their eagerness to be Americans. This tension is all the more
trying to those Jews who, as is the case with the grocer in
The
Assistant,
have several other matters to contend with: poverty,
the memory of a dead son, and the bewildering yearnings and