Page 71 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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L
e f tw ic h
— B
ashev is
S
inger
in
Y
iddish
L
iterature
65
Russian writers complained that he showed Russian life as though
it was all murders and murderers. Weren’ t there any decent
people in Russia? Dostoevsky was accused of blackening the face
of Russia with his writings. Maupassant was accused of showing
French women as though they were all unfaithful wives. The
fact is that every writer takes for his themes what is adapted to
his mind and his character, and he depicts them and does not
consider whether it will be good or bad for his people. I never
think of what the anti-Semites will say. I think of only one thing:
Have I a good subject for my story, have I made a good story of
it? I am sure the Jewish people will have little to suffer because
of my stories. Nor do I think they will get much good out of
them. A writer writes not to serve his people. He writes for him­
self and for his readers.”
He was asked in this interview why his stories teem with devils
and evil spirits, ghosts and dybbukim. He replied: “ Though 1
do not hold to the Jewish Law, I mean that I do not observe all
the laws of the
Shulhan Arukh,
I am in fact a believing Jew. I
believe in God, and in Divine Providence and in many things.
When I feel bad I pray to God. And as I often feel bad I often
pray to God in my heart. And when I am in distress I give charity.
And as I believe in God, in angels, and in Divine Providence, I
also believe that there are evil forces. I see no contradiction there
to modern science. I have been reading scientific books all my
life. I don’t consider myself a scientist, but I have some idea
of these things. I even write about them in the
Forward.
Never­
theless I believe in many of the things in which our parents
believed. And I am not ashamed of it. I wouldn’t be surprised
that there really are angels and evil spirits. In my mind they
exist, and I make use of them in my writing, also for a symbolic
purpose.”
Bashevis went on to speak of his contacts with “ the non-
Jewish world and with the Jewish world that speaks English.”
“ I must tell you,” he said, “ that though I am against assimilation,
and I would like all Jews to speak Yiddish—I wouldn’ t even
object to non-Jews speaking Yiddish—yet I must say that this
world has enriched me in many ways. I have found there qualities
I would like to see among our own people. One of these qualities
is a lack of envy. The American is not envious. There may be
exceptions. But on the whole he is glad when someone makes
a success. It is a quality we ought to learn from our neighbors,
because we lack it almost completely. And it has done much harm
to our literature.”
Considering to what an extent Bashevis has shocked the “Yid­
dish Literary Establishment” it is good to see what he has written
in an article in the
Forward
on the subject of “ shocking.” “Many