Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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SOME OUTSTANDING JEWISH BOOKS OF THE
TWENTIETH CENTURY
By
M
e y e r
W
a x m a n
T
HE writers, scholars, poets, novelists, and in general the
arbiters of the destiny of Jewish literature, in the broad
sense, who undertook to continue to spin the thread of literary
productivity in the present century, fell heir to a substantial
and valuable legacy from their predecessors in the nineteenth
century. There is hardly a branch of literature which was not
developed to a high degree by those who have gone before. Not
only was the wide and heterogenous field of Jewish learning and
scholarship distinguished by the production of numerous works
of value and permanence, but other branches or currents of
literature likewise displayed great vigor of expression and much
creative ability. As a result, at the close of the last century there
was accumulated much spiritual, cultural and literary wealth
garnered and laid up by the generations gone before, upon which
successors could draw.
To the credit of the literary masters of the twentieth century
it should be said that they utilized their inheritance to great
advantage. They, of course, drew upon its treasures and availed
themselves of the material prepared for them by numerous toilers,
and in certain fields even followed the methods delineated by
earlier writers, but they also contributed much of their own and
enriched Jewish literature in numerous ways. In the field of
poetry and belles-lettres, new paths were trodden and wide vistas,
not dreamed of before, were opened. On the whole, great progress
is to be noted in all branches of literary productivity.
JEWISH LITERATURE DISTINGUISHED
Consequently, Jewish literature during the four* and one half
decades of the century is distinguished, in spite of unfavorable
circumstances and disturbing factors due to the exceptional
conditions of two world wars, not only by its quantity but by
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