Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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RIBALOW / ISRAEL IN AMERICAN FICTION
about Jews generally and none has focused so closely on Israel.9
Of course, there also have been novels by non-Americans, a few
of which are worth reading and thinking about.10
VARIED THEMES
Levin lived in Palestine long before Statehood and presently
maintains a home in Israel. He knows the country and its peo-
pie and is aware of the problems of the nation from the view-
point of the American and the artists. Thus,
Yehuda
is about
kibbutz life in which the main protagonist, a violinist, has to
choose between his art and his people.11 In
My Father’s House
Levin tells the story of a young boy without security who
traverses the land of Israel in search of that security.
Gore
and Igor,
written at a time when the hippie influence ran
rampant in the United States, is a comedic tale of Americans,
Russians and Israelis “making out” in Israel. A minor book,
it remains a romp and displays Levin’s virtuosity, his ability to
write in the current mode, whatever it may be.
The Spell of
Time
is a very short book about two men and a girl in Jeru-
salem. It reminds one of Thomas Mann’s
The Transposed
Heads,
but is peculiarly Jewish and quite Israeli in ambience
and mood. His major opus on Israel has come in the two long
novels,
The Settlers
and
The Harvest.
Both novels center on
the Chaimovitch family, a large family from Russia. Some mem-
bers of the group went to the United States, following the Kish-
inev pogrom. Others went to Palestine.
The Settlers
commences
with the family coming to Jaffa. Levin traces the lives of scores
“Maurie Finds his Medium,” about a second-rate Jewish artist who dis-
covers that he remains second-rate in Israel, and “After All I Did for
Israel,” a caustic tale about Zionists who don’t really want to settle in
Israel.
9 His autobiography
In Search
(1950), describes in fascinating detail his
love affair with Israel and the Jewish people.
10
Thieves in the Night
by Arthur Koestler;
House of Hope
and
Children
at the Gate
by Lynne Reid Banks;
The Menorah Men
by Lionel David-
son, and
Smith’s Gazelle
by the same author;
The Mandelbaum Gate
by Muriel Spark;
Bride of Israel
by Richard Llewellyn;
In the Court-
yards of Jerusalem
by Chaim Brandwein; detective stories by Olga Hesky,
including
The Different Night
and
The Sequin Syndicate.
11 Yehuda Sharett, on whom the story is based, was a roomate of Levin’s
when the novelist lived in Israel. Sharett’s brother, Moshe, became
Israel’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister. Yehuda himself became
one of Israel’s leading musical composers.