Page 143 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

Basic HTML Version

several bon mots and allusions betray the fact of their Jewish
readership. In his essay on Tolstoy, Jabotinsky repeats the follow­
ing Moses legend which fascinated Tolstoy:
A certain king who yearned to have a portrait of Moses sent
one of his artists out to him in the wilderness. The artist
returned with a portrait of Moses. The king summoned his
wise men and commanded them to ascertain Moses’intrinsic
nature on the basis of his portrait. The wise men responded
unanimously that this was a hard-hearted, tyrranical, jeal­
ous and corrupt person. Astounded, the king arose and
went himself to the wilderness to see if perhaps the artist had
deceived him. And behold — the portrait resembled the
man Moses. When the king related to Moses the opinion of
his wise men, the prophet smiled and answered: All of this is
true and accurate, because I am precisely so by my nature,
but I have struggled with myself and conquered [these in­
nate tendencies].
In line with the Moses legend, Jabotinsky interprets Tolstoy’s
withdrawal from the public eye as his effort to resist the tempta­
tions of fortune and fame. His admiration for Tolstoy echoes
Jabotinsky’s appreciation elsewhere of Rousseau (“the igniter”),
of Maxim Gorky, and, particularly, of Byron:
The thrust of Byronism is rooted in this very [act of] protest
by the powerful personality, which feels itself constrained
amidst a milieu designed in accordance with the meas­
urements (perspectives) of the provincial-minded and
Such leisurely anecdotes as the Moses tale, his many di­
gressions, dialogues and jokes are essential charming ingredients
of Jabotinsky’s feuilletons. They are often subtly sermonic in
tone, but always human, engaging, disarming and persuasive.
Today’s reader finds himself forever eagerly awaiting the next
fireside anecdote or aside, and wondering how thoroughly en­
chanting these must have been in their day and in their original
Russian style.
The great .majority of Jabotinsky’s feuilletons are unabashedly
“Jewish,” although our point about Jabotinsky’s remarkable, if