Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
every twenty years or so.” I wonder how long before the lea
readers of meanings into the works of today’s fashionable wr
and artists of the “Jewish Renaissance” will discover that
have been stuffing theories into emptiness, and the “Je
Renaissance” will be replaced by an Irish or a Negro Renaissa
As for the sex books and the obscenities, it is today’s fas
and Bashevis is in the fashion. I was in the West End of Lon
today and passed one of the big theatres; the billboard out
advertising the current play read “ Sexual goings on in lusc
profusion.” I am afraid I am not with it. I go again to Som
Maugham, who was no Puritan. “Of sexual intercourse,”
quoted Lord Chesterfield, “ the pleasure is momentary, the posi
ridiculous and the expense damnable. If he had lived to
modern fiction,” Maugham added, “he might have said the
a monotony about the act which renders the reiterated narra
of it excessively tedious.” Perhaps the point is that the
and debauchery of which Leib Feinberg and other Yid
writers complain in Bashevis fits the present generation, is
vant to our present society and its problems and its need
suppose it follows that when this phase is exhausted and
reaction comes, our new fleshly school of writing will find its l
We have experienced in Jewish life more than once the
of revolt of the young against the old we have now. Dub
tells us how a hundred years ago in Russia “many children o f
ghetto became intoxicated with Russian literature. The ma
of thought in that generation, Chernyshevski, Pisaryev, Dar
Buckle, Spencer, became the idols of the Jewish youth. The h
which had been bent over the Talmud were now crammed
positivism, evolution, socialism. A tragic war ensued between
fathers and children.” That war ended in Soviet Russia with
creation of a new revolutionary Yiddish Soviet literature, he
by David Bergelson and Peretz Markish. Bergelson had l
before the Revolution been counted as one of the outstan
Yiddish novelists, on a par with Sholem Asch. When the
collection of Bergelson’s works appeared in Moscow in 1
after the tacit rehabilitation of the murdered Yiddish So
writers, the Foreword pointed out that “Bergelson had c
into our literature when the three founding fathers, Men
Sholem Aleichem and Peretz were still alive and working,
when Asch’s talent was just beginning to shine, to say not
of such masters as Weissenberg and others. Yet Bergelson cam
a revelation. His first book brought him immediate recogni
as an artist of the first rank.”
When Bergelson’s novel
appeared, Bashevis gav
a ten page review. “ The same Bergelson we knew of old,”
wrote, “ the same mastery of bringing in a milieu, the same