Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
he was writing ironically and satirically. But it symbolized the gaps
that often developed between Levin and the Jewish Establish­
ment.
A long time ago, Levin confided to me that the Establishment
rejected him for a most important literary project because both he
and his name were “too Jewish.” A “WASP” was preferable. And
so it was John Hersey who wrote
The Wall
with the aid of Jewish
organizational files and archives to help educate him and ease his
task.
KIBBUTZ NOVEL
As long ago as 1941, when few American Jews visited Palestine,
or the kibbutz settlements of the Yishuv, Levin, who was young
but already familiar with the land and its people, wrote
Yehuda.
This is the first novel ever written in the English language which
dealt with kibbutz or commune life in Palestine. It is written with
inner knowledge and understanding of what those idealists were
attempting to achieve. Actually, it was based on the career of the
brother of Moshe Sharett (born Shertok and Israel’s second
Prime Minister), who was a musician. Should the kibbutz allow an
artist full reign while others work the fields and milk the cows?
It is a more meaningful novel (though long out of print) than
David Maletz’s
Circles
, which was written in Hebrew years ago by
an Israeli and which created a stir in Israel. It also is more
interesting than some contemporary work by Amos Oz, one of
Israel’s leading creative writers who lives on a kibbutz and has
produced fiction on kibbutz life.
It is almost inevitable that Levin should have continued to
produce fiction about Israel.
Gore and Igor
(1967) written during
the “hippie” years of the 1960’s in the United States, is a rather
humorous “with it” narrative which blends hippies and Russians
and Israelis in, of all places, sober Israel. It is a lark of a novel
which underscores Levin’s adventurous and experimental spirit
as a novelist.
The Spell of Time
(1974) is a brief but quite erotic and imagina­
tive tale set in Jerusalem. Two men love the same woman. With
the aid of a hallucinogenic drug they affect an exchange of bodies
and souls, a young man and an older professor. A bit like Thomas
Mann’s
Transposed Heads
, with special Jewish insights and reli­
gious and folkloristic touches.