Page 75 - 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
69
Fuchs’s work is a call to hold on to the prose of Sholem Aleichem
and Peretz, Bergelson and Shneour, Singer and Rosenfeld. Fuchs
is one of our choicest creative writers, one of the pillars of Yiddish
literature.” I know also Bashevis’s high praise for Aaron Zeitlin’s
work and for the work of several other Yiddish writers, Herz
Bergner, Berlinski, Tabachnik, Nachum Bomze and Granitstein.
He has not alienated himself as much as some fear and feel. And
though I am not really happy about Bashevis’ acceptance into the
circle of our present anxiety-ridden, sex-ridden, demon-ridden
world literature, along with “Henry Miller, Joyce and D. H.
Lawrence,” I have some appreciation of the fact that a Yiddish
writer has penetrated into that circle too, and his name is known,
and as with Asch before him and Sholem Aleichem and his
brother Singer and with Shneour, books published and read in
English and widely discussed, bear the legend “By Isaac Bashevis
Singer. Translated from the Yiddish.”
I should add this: one of the things Yiddish writers used to
boast of, as distinguishing them from Jewish writers in non-
Jewish languages—English, French, German, Russian—was that
they, writing for Jewish readers who knew the life, knew it as a
whole, had no inhibitions about showing also the ugly side of
Jewish life, had no need to keep an eye all the time on the non-
Jewish reader, not to feed anti-Jewish prejudice. When Sholem
Asch’s
Mottke Thief
appeared in 1935 in English translation, I
welcomed it in a full page review in the
London Jewish Chronicle
for the reason that it showed us also the Jewish underworld, the
brothel keepers, the thieves and cutthroats, all of whom really
exist. Today there are any number of Jews writing in English
who seem to think it is their job to present Jewish life in what
the editor of the
Congress Bi-Weekly
once castigated as “ smut
and ignorance”—ignorance of Jewish life as a whole, good and
bad.
I don’t understand fashions in literature, why Sholem Aleichem
who was the same great writer fifty years ago has only recently
become a cult, and people imagine they get his spirit in a bowd-
lerised musical. Or why we have at the moment what someone
in the London
Times
has described as “ the so-called Jewish
Renaissance in American literature,” which has gone on “ flourish­
ing with Chaim Potok’s
The Chosen
and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s
The Manor” The Listener
had an article by T. G. Rosenthal
telling us that the
Oxford Companion to American Literature
lists
under “Jews” some fifty writers it regards as worthy of mention;
and this without including Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, Norman
Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Isaac Singer, J. D. Salinger, Allen
Ginsberg and the various best sellers whom one should perhaps
call authors as opposed to writers. “Why,” Arnold Sherman wanted