Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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38
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
form a three-cornered tapestry of the American psyche through­
out the nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries. Yet,
withal, there is something naive in them as refracted through
the prism of Hebrew literature by men of talent and ability, of
sense and sensibility. The writings are simple and beautiful, un­
affected by the new waves of the literary absurd and nightmare
which have inundated much of the literary world since the end
of World War II.
THE TH INN ING RANKS OF HEBREW WRITERS
With the end of hostilities in 1945, many things held in abey­
ance were re-activated. Holocaust survivors made their way to
Mandatory Palestine despite British obstructionism. Israel’s birth
in 1948 merely gave formal expression to an old religious drive
pre-dating Dr. Herzl by centuries. During that transition period,
some of the Hebrew personalities in this country settled in Israel
and cultivated newer aspects of their respective careers. A num­
ber of young Hebrew writers and poets with promising futures
pulled up stakes and went on aliyah. The few remaining senior
ones continued into old age and died; their ranks were increas­
ingly depleted.
Little of the ferment, tensions, and cacaphonies of contempo­
rary literature found their way into what remained of Hebrew
literature’s thinning ranks in the United States. There were no
celebrated causes for which cudgels were taken up with great
emotion, there were no passionate rebellions against the old
conservative order. There were few challenges and fewer re­
sponses. The literary waters, not yet entirely becalmed, were in­
creasingly becoming “still waters.” Nothing was made of the
Japanese and Chinese Americans, of the Mexican Americans, of
the passing of the “melting pot” concept, of the implications of
true cultural plurality, a real problem with which the Jew has
had to wrestle for centuries in his exile.
Hardly a year has passed since the establishment of the State
of Israel without an Israeli novelist, poet or literary critic visit­
ing these shores for several weeks or months. True, they provided
an important temporary lift to the flagging spirits of local He­
brew intelligentsia, but this did not in itself constitute a renais­
sance.