Page 159 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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not a ghost but a representation of a complex of philosophical,
religious, and moral attitudes. It is true that Singer is essen-
tially a Yiddish writer, but so highly have his works in transla-
tion been praised by the aforementioned critics that he is sig-
nificant in general Jewish American life. Perhaps one should also
mention here Elie Wiesel's semi-autobiographical novels about
the holocaust. They were originally written in French and then
translated into English. The early ones,
N igh t
Dawn ,
memorable. The succeeding ones have been far less impressive.
The reaction just alluded to is making it more risky for publish-
ers to put out shoddy works (as was the case with the prize-winning
D r ive , H e Said,
by Jeremy Larner), with or without the
blessings of “influential’' critics. Leslie Fiedler, Alfred Kazin,
Harvey Swados, and Theodore Solotaroff are no more magical
names in blurbs.
Perhaps the most important fact in the past twenty-five years
is that Jewish writers have been educated by the bitter history
of these times to appreciate, however vaguely and slightly, the
infinite riches for creativity in our annals in this land. These
have been virtually untapped. American Jews have a “useable
past” that is waiting to be transmuted into art. That transmuta-
tion will spread and intensify. Henceforth, Jewish books will
very likely not have the wide acceptance they have had. But the
new public will be more discriminating. A vast audience is wait-
ing for a great literature. Whenever there is such an audience,
the literature it is waiting for is generally not long in coming.
n g o f f
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e w i sh
m e r ic a n
m a g in a t iv e
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