Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
however, he slights the very characteristics that so obviously bind
him to them.
MYTHIC QUALITY
T h e d istinguished fiction o f Adele Wiseman (born 1928) d e ­
ploys the world o f imm igrants and their o f fsp r in g bu t dep a r ts
from the usual realistic depictions by p lacing her accounts within
a Jew ish mythological framework which unifies and exp licates the
novels’ experience. Th is mode is clearly dem on strated in her two
novels: The Sacrifice (1956) and Crackpot (1974).
Recognized as a Canad ian classic, The Sacrifice tells o f the
cruelly d isrup ted lives o f raw imm igran ts, who in their de sire s
and conflicts re-echo the overarch ing biblical narrative o f the
Akedah. In the passionate d ram a o f family life, Wiseman cap tu re s
the tragic disjunction between generation s, the pent-up hum ilia­
tions caused by m undane ad justm en ts, which find re lease in the
redemptive act o f terrible violence. T h e harsh world o f fr igh t­
ened peop le, who are “ runn ing from death and from every other
insult,” is p resen ted within resonances o f the mythic, endow ing it
with a power that transcends the particu lar case history.
Crackpot is at once more visceral and metaphysical. In this novel
she draws on the kabbalistic legend which ascribes the creation o f
the universe to the inability o f the vessel to contain the divine
light, whereupon it shatters to become material reality. T h e novel
has a modern setting in which the heroine , a g ro te sque am id
tangled, su rreal actions, person ifies the mystery o f external form
and intrinsic meaning . Wiseman is in the first rank o f C an ad a ’s
mythopoetic imaginative writers. In a nation o f imm igran ts, she
has succeeded in jo in in g the pain fu l story o f homelessness and
the quest for identity to universal parab le s issuing from Jew ish
myth.
Th e fiction o f N orm an Levine (born 1924) also originates in the
remembered past o f urban Jew ish poverty and estrangem en t.
However, unlike Rich ler’s abrasive satire or the many-layered
mythic structure o f Wiseman, Lev ine ’s work gains its unden iab le
power from a distinctive narrative voice whose very wanness and
detachment sound s the toll o f passing years. Th e au th o r is a
first-generation C anad ian , son o f poo r imm igrants, who decided ,
a fter his university studies in English literature , to devote h im se lf
to writing. Most o f his adu lt life has been spen t in Eng land , all the