Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

Basic HTML Version

biblical echoes of fraternity and domestic tranquility (in its
pristine sense) so easily discernible?
We do not propose to indicate the presence of biblical motifs
in American literature. It is one of American literature’s under­
currents from the colonial period to at least through the nine­
teenth century. This presence must also be considered as part
of America’s secular heritage and, as part of that secular heri­
tage’s intellectual baggage, we shall find interesting mutants in
Hebrew literature created on this continent. But first things first.
When Reuben Wallenrod wrote his novel, since translated
into English as
Dusk in the Catskills,2
he portrayed a group of
first and second generation middle-class American Jews carving
out a way of life under the umbrella of the American puritan
work ethnic. His gallery of Jews at work and at play in a Jewish
resort over the years contains no revelations. Applying a varia­
tion of the old saw, Wallenrod’s Jews were the same as anyone
else, only more so. Nevertheless, the lesson of the work ethic is
In 1922, Hillel Bavli published a poetic idyll entitled “Mrs.
Woods.”3 Mrs. Woods was a gentle “young” woman of ninety-
two. In the country one remains eternally young, so her philoso­
phy went. It is the city that ages its unfortunate dwellers pre­
Mrs. Woods was a prototypical WASP, rooted in the land,
close to nature and its beauty. She forever cautioned her young
visitors who came to sit at her feet in admiration that the city
was an unwholesome place with constant nerve-shattering noises,
an exhausting rushing about, where one is easily deluded into
thinking that wisdom could be found on every corner. Obviously,
it was to be found only in her peaceful countryside, among her
beloved mountains.
Some Hebrew writers were attracted by the American Indian.
Israel Efros, a poet-philosopher who completed one academic
career in the United States and then settled in Israel and began
a second one, wrote a long narrative idyll entitled “Silent Wig-
2 Reuben Wallenrod,
Dusk in the Catskills
(New York, 1957).
3 Hillel Bavli,
(Tel-Aviv: Dvir, 1937), I, pp. 136-45.