Page 130 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
In Winter,
o f considerable merit. Pervaded by an atm osphere o f
pessimism, pointlessness and ennui, the novel is concerned with
the problem o f the young intellectual who can find no possibility
o f fulfillment and relapses into despair. It had burst on the small
circle of Hebrew readers like a bombshell and aroused a lively
interest in its au tho r. But du r ing his first few months in London ,
B renner chose to remain incognito, working for a pittance in the
East End Russian Library, and later — af te r learning type-setting
— as a compositor for a Yiddish paper.
T he experience provided the raw material for one o f his most
powerful stories “O u t o f Distress,” set in the East End o f London
and concerned with the tribulations o f a g roup o f workers on a
Yiddish newspaper. T he story contains much autobiographical
material, and it is remarkable for the literary techniques em ­
ployed for dramatic effect, as well as fo r the restra ined passion in
its depiction. T h e influence o f Dostoyevsky is very clear. B ren ­
n e r ’s use o f irony is particularly effective in his trea tm en t o f the
odious Shemaiah Ta ler and Hayyah-Rachel his wife:
Let me re tu rn to ou r theme: T a le r ’s apartmen t. With the
help o f an English maid, the household is managed with
grea t skill, if no t with striking economy, by noisy little
Hayyah-Rachel, the former revolutionary, and even now an
attractive woman, especially when, from time to time, she
presents a popu la r talk at the workers’ club. Admittedly,
traces o f h er fo rm e r life in the party may occasionally be
recognized in the Hayyah-Rachel o f today even in house­
hold matters; bu t essentially, she is already far-removed
from all that! She has finally succumbed completely — I
won’t say to the family — bu t to the household! Only h e r
laugh — a high-pitched, unna tu ra l laugh, em itted th rough
thin dry lips — rem inds the walls o f h e r apa r tm en t o f he r
days gone by . . . And within these walls I live too. And the re
are times when I reflect:
What this household, ju s t like any o the r household needs
to soften the damnable unp leasan t coarseness is a healthy
baby in a cradle — to soothe its crying, look after it, await its
smile and its lovely dimpled laugh and su r rend e r to its
mystery. But Hayyah-Rachel, the “emanc ipated” Mrs. T a le r
is not a mo ther. Five times a day she calmly consumes the