Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

Basic HTML Version

JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
64
characters that Halkin chooses to examine in the nine chapters
of his work.
Implied in Halkin’s probings into the complex makeup of
his characters is a questioning of the direction of American Jew-
ish life. The older generation is represented by Rabbi Reuben
Foller, who seeks a synthesis between Judaism and Americanism,
and Leizer Loskin, a successful businessman who heads his con-
gregation. The course of their lives, however, does not run
smoothly. Rabbi Foller’s pragmatism is shaken by his wife’s pas-
sivity towards him, while Loskin is disturbed over his college
son’s radicalism.
The loosely connected narrative describes also the lives of
the younger members and friends of the Foller and Loskin fam-
ilies, and reveals their rootlessness. This “lost generation” is
seen in its inability to substitute new values for those of the
immigrant parents. Halkin takes us into the student life and
radical meetings of these young people. He pictures their visits
to the night clubs of Greenwich Village and the parties where
they discuss the arts and social issues. He makes skillful use of
various literary techniques, such as inner monologue, to bare
the souls of his characters. The book as a whole breathes admira-
tion for America and its beauties, and particularly for New York,
to which an entire chapter of singular lyrical quality is devoted.
At the same time, it raises gnawing doubts about the viability of
creative Jewish survival in this country.
S H O R T S TO R IE S
The intensivity of character portrayal that characterizes Hal-
kin’s novels is to be discerned also in his short stories, which
were collected last year under the title
Nekhar
(Adrift). Here,
too, the inner life of the characters rather than narrative action
is the author’s chief concern. The theme of unrealized love and
the failure of human communication is at the basis of several of
the stories. In “Elita,” written during the 1920’s, the all-con-
suming love of a young man for the girl of his dreams is movingly
described. The most recent story in the collection, “From the
Letters of Louis Birin,” plays upon the same theme, except that
it rhapsodically describes the love of an older man for a younger
woman.