Page 156 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
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A
n n u a l
136
York T im es Book R ev iew
and the
Saturday R ev iew
hailed it
for its “warmth” and “perception.”
Hadassah H igh ligh ts
also
praised it. But most likely this book will glide into the same
artistic oblivion that books such as
Exodus
and
Marjorie Morn-
ingstar
have glided into. There are no credible characters in it;
there is a minimal amount of insight into Jewish life, and the
writing is undistinguished. The story is about a rabbi who
marries a Gentile (daughter of a New England Congregation-
alist minister) who is converted to Judaism but apparently never
really becomes Jewish. The wife, Leslie, eventually lands in a
psychiatric hospital, and that’s about all. The rabbi, according
to the author, almost never discusses the problems of the rab-
binate with his wife, which is incredible. Leslie is never sure
of her status as a Jewess, but the author never tells us why. The
total effect of the book is no more than that of a “superior”
television show.
Intermarriage, some claim (the evidence, such as it is, is in-
conclusive), has been increasing, but the novelists have made
little contribution to the subject. The subject is complicated
and requires delicate handling as well as deep insight. When
two young people of different faiths marry, what happens is more
than two individuals getting together. Two streams of history,
two philosophies of life, often in sharp contradiction on major
points, get together, and in each case two worlds of subconscious
attitudes, built up over centuries and even millennia of time,
face each other with bewilderment, suspicion, and at times also
with animosity. Only two novels about intermarriage are worthy
of extended attention:
Th e Island W ith in ,
by Ludwig Lewisohn,
and
The Enemy Camp,
by Jerome Weidman. Both are failures.
Dr. Lewisohn’s book is an editorial against intermarriage rather
than a work of fiction, and Mr. Weidman’s novel ends exactly
where the problems of intermarriage emerge.
In addition to Meyer Levin there have been other novelists
who have written, with varying success, knowingly of Jewish life:
Michael Blankfort, Seymour Epstein, Louis Falstein, James Yaffe,
Arthur Granit, Samuel Yellen, Mordecai Richler, Louis Zara,
and Norman Fruchter, among others. Edward Lewis Wallant,
who died at the tragically young age of thirty-six, left foui
novels, at least two of which will probably join the vital stream
of Jewish-American letters:
The Human Season
and
The Pawn-
broker.
The first digs deep into the soul of a simple American
Jew troubled by the ways of God, and the second is concerned
with the abiding moral and spiritual injury inflicted upon the
whole Jewish people by the Hitler holocaust, an injury that is
being constantly aggravated by the mounting realization of the
relative indifference of so large a proportion of the Christian
world to the plight of the Jews.