Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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RIBALOW / AMERICAN JEWISH FICTION AWARDS
15
—who eagerly await a novel enriched by her imagination, her gift
for language, her skill and her Jewish awareness. Her first novel,
Trust,
written when she was young, is ambitious and sprawling,
as though created by a totally different writer than the one who
wrote “The Pagan Rabbi” and some of her other stories.
Francine Prose, author of
Judah the Pious,
is a young woman.
Her novel is a parable told in terms of folklore, with a touch
of the bizarre and the highly imaginative and with some of the
qualities of Isaac Bashevis Singer. It deals with miracle workers,
rabbis, Jews in an ancient European community. Her second
novel, about strolling Italian actors, is so radically different that
one wonders which is the aberrant.
Jean Karsavina’s novel is an old-fashioned Jewish family
chronicle from 1890 to 1907 about a man living in Poland. It
traces the story of his family and his friends, those who assimilate
and those who do not, those who try to fit in the new world and
those who cannot. The flat prose is transcended by its interesting
material.
Curiously, many of the winners have been historical novels;
those by Howard Fast, by Soma Morgenstern, by Lion Feucht­
wanger, by Joanne Greenberg, by Francine Prose, by Singer, even
by Jean Karsavina. It is questionable whether one would call
The
Wall
an historical novel, although I would. And only a handful
of them deal with Israel. Zelda Popkin’s
Quiet Street
is one,
The
Juggler
by Blankfort is a second. Leon Uris, of course, wrote
about Israel in
Exodus
and that is about it. A surprisingly small
number of them deal with American Jewish life, considering that
we are dealing now with books over a twenty-five year span of
time. Those set in the United States, depicting the conflict of
generations, the problems of intermarriage and assimilation, or
whichever problems we have in this country, aren’t all that many.
The first few books in the series by Howard Fast, Soma Morgen­
stern, Zelda Popkin, and Michael Blankfort have nothing to do
with the United States. The first was Charles Angoff’s
In the
Morning Light.
The second was Louis Zara’s
Blessed Is The
Land,
which was published in the year the American Jewish
community was celebrating three hundred years of Jewish settle­
ment in America. Jo Sinclair’s
The Changelings
in 1955 was also
an American book, as was Bernard Malamud’s
The Assistant
in
1957.