Page 141 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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NASH / JABOTINSKY — MASTER FEUILLETONIST
133
cities: Rome, Vienna, and especially, Odessa of the first half of the
nineteenth century. But reading closely as one must, we perceive
a complex image. In writing of America Jabotinsky exemplifies
his discerning eye for the external manifestation of cultural
moods. Modes of dress are never arbitrary. If women’s fashions
during World War I reflected “seriousness” tempered by “fresh­
ness and faith in the future,” then the types of apparel shown in
American Westerns were also broadcasting their cultural mes­
sage. “In the crinolines and narrow laced trousers,” Jabotinsky
saw proclaimed:
Don’t hustle don’t bustle, don’t hurry. A person must march
ahead, but he should walk grandly to the rustling of silk
down the main avenue; he should not tear along, sweating
and breathing heavily, tripping into cracks and holes.
“Oh, but that was a delightful period!” Jabotinsky exclaims.
NOSTALGIA AND MODERNISM
Many of Jabotinsky’s cultural commentaries reflect this tension
between his longing for classical conservatism in the tradition of
the 19th century European gentleman and his youthful and mis­
chievous attraction to what was new and primitive and irreverent.
In a lovely and intelligent exposition of the evolution and “philos­
ophy” of social dancing, he describes the European waltz as “the
first breach” in the wall of social inhibitions. With the American
foxtrot, he continues, all the stops of restraint were released, and
in this free spirit, “whether for a blessing or a curse, America is
already educating our children.” Clearly, a goodly portion of
Jabotinsky’s private sympathies lay with the waltz and crinolines
as adequate and proper stages of social behavior. Nevertheless, he
applauded as inexorable the cathartic literary process from Boc­
caccio to Nietzsche of “debunking” conventions. And Jabotinsky
did more than his share in helping to bury forever the very
classical 19th century period-piece of crinolines and horse-drawn
buggies he so nostalgically conjured up. Of the late 19th century
psychological and cultural revolution known as
fin-de-siecle
(which
Jabotinsky traced to the American Edgar Allan Poe), he writes:
This call for examination of our cultural inventory, for
removal of the lines of demarcation between the normal and
the aberrant . . ., this too was
halutziut
(pioneering) whose
source was America.