Page 145 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

Basic HTML Version

NASH / JABOTINSKY — MASTER FEUILLETONIST
137
too numerous for us. Let us, then, deal shrewdly with them . .
How Jabotinsky could have been, at once, such an afficianado
of Italian, Russian and English literature and, at the same time,
such a wary skeptic of the hospitality of the Gentile world towards
Jews is made extremely clear in one of his most colorful articles.
The article begins: “There were days when I loved the holidays of
all the nations.” Jabotinsky narrates in a light and playful way his
reminiscences of various noisy and pungent Roman feast days
and Russian Easters. He also presents us with a sociological
analysis as to why he and his contemporaries once possessed such
a naively wholesome attitude as to want to participate in every­
body’s celebrations. He was from Odessa, a city of immigrants,
where one developed quick and pleasant relationships with one’s
neighbors. Odessans also “are not irascible nor quick to take
affront, they do not harbor a grudge nor do they know protracted
hatreds.” The unique atmosphere of Odessa helped to spawn his
feelings of warmth and affinity for European society. Especially
in the 1890s, a particularly undistinguished Russian period of
relaxing, healthy “boredom” — “such an atmosphere in such a
city certainly produced a generation of wholesome (naive) good-
natured people, friendly in every aspect and disposed to celebrate
holidays with everyone who came their way.”
The erosion of this Jewish-Gentile camaraderie came, of
course, during the frightful period of pogroms in the first decade
of this century. But one cannot overemphasize that Jabotinsky’s
nostalgia and yearning for “Old Odessa” and for the Rome of his
student years is so pronounced as to be a perennial reminder of
his proud European roots.
IN PRAISE OF SZYK
Jabotinsky’s feuilletonistic range and style are at their best in his
enthusiastic article on A rthur Szyk’s illuminated text of the 13th
century Statute of Kalish, a landmark “bill of rights” for Jews,
issued by King Boleslav the Shy of Poland (apparently to attract
Jewish businessmen to that country). Jabotinsky engrosses the
reader in a detailed excursus on the forgotten art of illuminating
manuscripts. He praises Szyk’s calligraphy in eight languages,
and dwells lavishly on the artist’s deft stylization of Jewish and
Polish figures: