Page 140 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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STANLEY NA SH
Jabotinsky
Master Feuilletonist
On the Occasion of the Centenary of His Birth
I
t
i s
o ft e n
f or go t t en
that Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was
first a popular journalist — most distinctively, a feuilletonist* —
for a Russian-Jewish readership which savored his style and wit.
The leisurely rambling pace of Jabotinsky’s feuilletons seems to
have been attuned to the rhythm of the lengthy railwayjourney of
a bygone era. Indeed, several such articles incorporate train-
cabin dialogues as their scenario. Jabotinsky draws the reader in
for a casual sophisticated chat about the latest fads and foibles or
for a precious anecdote, passing from one subject to another in so
engaging a manner that, undoubtedly, in the absence of televi­
sion, one could easily have gone on reading for hours. In trying tb
recapture and commemorate this aspect of Jabotinsky as colum­
nist and raconteur, the writer has perused with much pleasure
more than eighty of Jabotinsky’s occasional pieces on books,
movies, fashion, travel and social commentary, which now com­
prise four volumes and over a thousand pages in their Hebrew
translation.
American culture is one focus of Jabotinsky’s attention. His
fascination for American literature, films, dancing and politics is
understandable and instructive in view of Jabotinsky’s predilec­
tion for a frontiering ethos. The frontier, with its component
aspects of preserving a “classical” simplicity of life while, at the
same time, building a radically new society out of a primitive and
violent milieu, mirrors a basic tension in Jabotinsky as an author
and as a politician. He writes, for example, that Edna Ferber’s
Oklahoma awakened “Zionist” feelings in him. American West­
ern stories and films evoked in Jabotinsky a romantic nostalgia for
the pre-industrialized graciousness of certain favorite European
* The feuilleton (French for “leaflet”) is an article on a social, artistic, or philo­
sophical subject, written in a lively and interesting fashion and occupying a
fixed section or column o f a newspaper.
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