Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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Your stoutest, most selfless partisans in Europe
laboured nearly two thousand years,
to twist your cross into the Swastika
that tore into our flesh like a fish-hook.
Layton ’s idea o f the Jew ish tradition is secu lar in orientation
nd eclectic in scope, gathering together the iconic f igu re s fo r a
odern pan theon which accommodates the Prophets and F reud ,
e su s and Israeli sold iers, Isaiah and Marx. They are un ited by
hat he considers their essential Jew ish qualities: Uny ield ing
oral pu rpo se and a heroic assertiveness in the face o f human
aste and decay. T h e se qualities provide Layton with his typical
osture , his thematic consistency. While his perform ance is often
hat o f a de fian t persona brashly confron ting common opin ion,
is literary repu tation rests firmly on his controlled lyrical power,
he ability to form in memorable langu age the perception s and
onvictions o f a un ique being. H is is a sensibility g roun ded in
0th-century actualities. Bearing witness to the devastations o f
uschwitz and the Gu lag , he persists in realizing the creative act,
n transmuting the experiential into song. T h e deeply-moving
ines from the comm emorative poem to his mo ther “ Keine
azarovitch, 1870 -1959 ” insist on the poe t ’s primary function ,
Ofierce she was, mean and unaccommodating;
But I think now o f the toss o f her gold earrings,
Their proud carnal assertion, and her youngest sings
While all the rivers of her red veins move into the sea.
C an ada ’s best known novelist, one o f the few to achieve an
nternational repu tation , is also Jew ish and it is doubtless from the
ovels o f Mordecai Richler that many C anad ians get their im­
ressions o f Jew ish manners and morals. Th is has often expo sed
ichler to the dismay or anger o f Jew s who consider his fiction to
e a distortion o f their behavior and in jurious to communal
Richler was born in 1931 and came o f age in the war years and
heir afterm ath . H is m a jor fiction treats o f the consequences o f
he massive popu lation shift which tran sform ed Jew ish society in
is native Montreal du r ing the late 4 0 ’ and 50 ’s. It was in the