Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
logue and the resurgence o f anti-Semitism du r ing the past
decade have sparked growing interest in this area. According to
E rre ra , non-fiction books occupy the second most im po r tan t
position in overall Juda ica publication, af te r French Jewish
History, and in this instance, Mandel agrees with E rre ra ’s evalua­
tion.
SOME DATA
Mandel also repo rts tha t fiction holds the lead. In his repo r ts in
the
AmericanJewish Year Book,
36.5 per cent o f the titles listed d u r ­
ing the last fifteen years were novels (27% were essays, 20% dealt
with Israel-related topics and 16.5% were history books). Most o f
these were written originally in French. But ambiguity remains,
fo r as E rrera points out, it is hard to define precisely what a Jewish
novel is. Mandel, for instance, is very circumspect about assigning
the label o f Jewish writer. He requires the au tho r to echo the “spe­
cific Jewish emotional experience,” to be at home in the world o f
Jewish values and culture, to avow his Jewishness. For him, ethnic
or mystic affiliation is not enough. This definition, accordingly,
excludes a young writer like Patrick Modiano whose Jewishness,
Mandel claims, was asserted only th rough ex ternal pressure, i.e.
anti-Semitism. Still Modiano’s novels are regularly reviewed in
the Jewish press. His novels answer the identity needs o f readers
not as familiar with Jewish values as Mandel, and satisfy the curi­
osity o f non-Jewish readers, eager fo r insights into the Jewish
experience.
E rre ra ’s insistence on the role o f French Jewish History, and
Mandel’s emphasis on the specific Jewish character o f litera tu re
exhibit a highly elitist approach to Jewish publishing. T h e la tter
especially fails properly to evaluate the public interest in Israel,
despite the fact tha t in his own listings in the
AmericanJewish Year
Book,
as many as 20% o f the titles deal with the Israeli-Arab con­
flict and the Middle East.
I t is interesting to compare French Jewish book produc tion
with tha t o f American Jewish books. T h e recen t volumes o f the
Jewish Book Annual
o ffe r a topical distribution o f new titles. His­
tory and biography held the lead, followed by religion,
6 For an introduction to the
Nouveaux Philosophes,
see Roger Kaplan, “France’s
‘New Philosophers’,”
Commentary,
Feb. 1978, pp. 73-76.