Page 237 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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217
B
ic k e l
— Y
idd ish
P
rose
in
A
m e r ic a
Goldenbarg,
a magnificent tale of the Northern Prairies, and
later in his tales of Bessarabian Jews who longed for “their own
soil.’' In one of his last short stories, his hero Chaim Povidle
speaks of the “law of the soil” and the “law of service to the soil,”
and adds, “One improves God’s world by establishing a home-
stead.”
Raboy’s hymns to the soil are, in my opinion, a prelude to
the idea of “To Zion,” a basic ingredient of American Yiddish
belles-lettres. This idea was most clearly and artistically articu-
lated in Opatoshu’s historical novel of Rabbi Akiva and Bar
Kochba, vibrant personalities for us today, in B. Ressler’s novel
of the Yanevke patrician Mordecai Leib Bergman and his halutz-
ic son and grandson, and also by I. Bashevis Singer in
Family
Moskat,
where the concept of Salvation is embodied in the
halutzim—figures of the final chapters. 1.1. Singer too concludes
with the slogan “To Zion,” after his final disenchantment with
assimilationism as depicted in his
Family Carnovsky
and with
Sovietism as limned in
H aver Nahman.
Let those who doubt
that Singer’s aesthetic and ideological odyssey led him to Zion
after creating the above works read his essay on our “Bimillennial
Mistake,” penned in his last months, as if in anticipation of his
end.
Artistic Achievement
Critics may sometimes learn from philosophers. A century ago
Schopenhauer in
Parerga and Paralipomena
wrote: “The more
inner life and the less outer life a novel depicts, the higher and
nobler will be its quality . . . Narrative art should move along
inner levels of the soul with the minimum use of life’s surface
phenomena, because the innermost level is what really interests
us most.” Without going into the question as to which of our
writers achieved more than others in this respect, I wish to stress
the totality of experiences I relive in the fictional characters which
reveal to me entire vistas of inner Jewish life, Jewish wrestling
with God and the devil, Jewish heroism and martyrdom.
A collection of American Yiddish prose could fill rooms or even
an entire middle-sized library building. The characters in these
books stride across many lands and many eras of our historic
existence. Asch’s Rabbi of Gostin is Jewish flaming ardor for
God; Schneour’s Pandre, Opatoshu’s Kivke Ganef and Jochanan
of Kfar Kharuba symbolize heroism and self-sacrifice in revolt
against hatred and murder. Ressler’s Patrician of Yanevke and
Glatstein’s magificent Steinman typify reverence for life and love-
liness in facing death; Abraham Shapiro in Bashevis Singer’s
Family Moskat
embodies brotherly love, living wisdom, and the