Page 158 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
and not reset. The entire edition was sold out but, working on a
very limited budget, Raeburn ultimately was faced with a choice:
To reissue
In Search
or go ahead with new writers and books. He
had an opportunity to become the publisher of Frank Lloyd
Wright and elected to do so. It is, I think, ironic that Levin’s final
novel,
The Architect,
is based on Wright’s life.
There is another irony here. In our talk, Levin said, “Recently a
friend of mine, who is a member of the Literary Establishment,
said she was at a party and gpt talking to Kazin and my name came
up. He said he had just been rereading/w
Search
and that this was
a great book and that I had been undervalued as a writer. And
here’s the man who very nearly broke me in a literary way!”
In Search
is a genuine contribution to contemporary history. It
contains remarkably vivid war reporting (the Spanish Civil War,
the riots in Palestine, World War II, and Israel’s War of Indepen­
dence). It is a history of Palestine and the birth of Israel and a
strong account of the Holocaust. It is especially valuable on Pales­
tine, for Levin personally experienced and witnessed the growth
of the Yishuv and the establishment of Israel.
How many American novelists lived in Palestine, planted wheat
in the fields of a settlement, fought against the Arab rioters in
1929, became friends with Jewish settlers who later became the
leaders of the State of Israel, and had seen the survivors of
Dachau and Buchenwald as they were being liberated?
Another level on which this book is written is the artist’s, the
writer’s. The opening line is deceptively simple: “This is a book
about being a Jew.” But the story is a complex one. In this
autobiography there is an extraordinary passage about being a
writer and being a Jew. It bears repetition because it is a key to
understanding Meyer Levin and perhaps a generation of Jews.
Here it is:
“I remember the morning when I wrote the last line [of a film
script] and stepped out of the house: I had so great, so exquisitie a
sense of achievement and relief, I said to myself — Even if the
work is no good, even if it is mediocre, remember this moment for
yourself, remember there is no other way for you to achieve this
sense of peace, of self-justification, except in carrying out what­
ever writing is in your mind. All your other reasons are subordi­
nate; all your talk of social purpose in writing; all this is embroi­
dery; the fundamental necessity is to reach this moment, that’s
what drives you to writing. Nothing else can give you this peace.