Page 86 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
82
guided in their methods, and their mistakes are costly to them-
selves, and their innocent victims.
Hazaz’s critical attitude toward the history of his people is
tempered by his sympathy and love for them. His works reflect a
tense ambivalent viewpoint which is often unresolved. He calls
for radical changes in Jewish life, and yet he mourns the inevita-
ble loss of the venerable past. He advocates self-sacrifice and de-
plores the loss of individual potential. On the one hand, he
criticizes the Jews for not being part of the historical process in
that they have never actively sought to determine their own fate.
On the other hand, he praises them as the vanguard in history;
by virtue of their spirituality, they educated other nations and
survived the test of time.
Aldous Huxley provides a clue to the difficulties of critically
appraising the body of Hazaz’s work: “The great defect of the
novel of ideas is that i t ’s a slightly made-up affair. Necessarily;
for people who reel off neatly formulated notions aren’t r e a l ..
Hazaz’s characters sometimes provide just such formulations about
the fate and history of the Jewish people, resulting in artificiality
and distortion of the narrative skills. In his lesser works, the ser-
monizing and philosophizing overshadow the fiction.
A R T I S T OF N A R R A T IV E SK ILLS
Hazaz’s ultimate success as a writer, however, lies in his ability
to combine his philosophy and his views of history with the art
of fiction. It is his narrative skills that define him as an artist.
In his best works the ideas are integrated within the story and
flow from the themes, characters, mood, and narrative style, and
give them additional strength and significance. Just as Hazaz’s
themes are found in his earliest stories, so are his literary tech-
niques. The early tales of the Revolution contain most of the
characteristic elements of his work: the conflict of characters rep-
resenting opposing ideas or attitudes; subplots, particularly love
stories, reinforcing the ideological themes; the use of satire and
humor as weapons of criticism; a sense of tragedy and irony. Also
*Aldous Huxley,
Point Counterpoint
(New York: The Modern Library, 1930),
p. 351.