Page 125 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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BELLMAN / THE LITERARY CREATIVITY OF MEYER LEVIN
115
a writer, since he had not been a part of it and thus lacked the
moral sensitivity of the actual survivors. “Occasionally I could
tell a story that gave a tangential glimpse into the hearts of the
survivors. Some day a teller would arise from amongst them­
selves.” (Pocket Books edition, 1973, p. 174). From this feeling
developed his all-consuming absorption with the Anne Frank
story and his determination to produce a play faithful to it in
letter and spirit. Thwarted to distraction by an endless series of
suppressions, lawsuits, conspiracies, he became more determined
with each setback to get the real Anne Frank record, in all its
Jewish poignancy, before the general public.
His novel,
The Fanatic
(1963), a beautiful and haunting
book, is a concerted attempt to achieve this through the mode of
fiction. But it could not assuage his burning frustration and
sense of outrage, and for years he dissipated his energies and
resources trying to fight back against the forces of control (most
of them Jewish) that prevented him from producing
his genuine
version
of Anne Frank’s diary on the stage, while the allegedly
false and dejudaized play version became an incalculably success­
ful theater classic. The autobiographical book,
The Obsession,
is a melancholy record of this vain and almost self-destructive
struggle lasting twenty years. It concludes on a note of hope for
justice, peace, universal illumination: the Jewish Messianic ideal
expressed through Levin’s own defeats at the hands of corrupt
wielders of power.
The Bumbler.
Not only in the Anne Frank matter has Levin
guessed wrong, misplaced his faith and business trust, misread
character, failed utterly to develop any kind of second-strike
capability.
In Search
and
The Obsession
record an incredible
number of botched literary-business ventures: his early play-
writing efforts,
Compulsion
(1956—the Leopold-Loeb story), the
refugee film:
The Illegals,
etc. Mark Twain himself, that literary
master and business infant, could hardly have done worse. Is
Levin trying to tell us, or the world, something beyond the reach
of fragile words?
The Seeker.
This is what makes Levin such a fascinating, un-
dismissable popular writer on Jewish themes: his many-sidedness,
his blending of lights and darks, his
ad astra per aspera
(“To the
stars through difficulty”) reaching for Heaven, even if it is only
to be sought within his all-but-unidentifiable psyche. His life­