Page 8 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
porary fiction. Some years ago she advocated a New Yiddish as a
means o f Juda izing language and pou ring Jewish ideas into Eng­
lish writing. She has since abandoned this idea. Yet in h e r provoc­
ative “Bialik’s H in t” she has b roadened her scope and suggested a
formula fo r fusing the offerings o f En lightenment with Jewish
substance.
Basing her thesis on Bialik’s essay
Halakhah va-Aggadah,
in
which the Hebrew poet stresses the in terdependence o f these two
strands o f rabbinic teaching, Ozick indicates tha t Jewish writers
should eschew blind universalism for a blending o f the best ele­
ments o f the Enlightenment and the Jewish genius. Such a quest
represents for her an alternative to becoming wholly absorbed
into the majority civilization. As always, Ozick is challenging. But
whether Bialik, who stood at the crossroads o f the modern era
and was torn between a deep loyalty to the past and a desire to jo in
the modern , humanist stream, can serve as a model for present-
day writers in English is open to question. A fter all, Bialik strove
not only for harmony with modernism, but also for harmony
within the Jewish soul. And this harmony, he was convinced,
could be achieved only th rough basic knowledge o f the Hebraic
sources o f Judaism . Whether the cultural milieu o f American
Jewry, or for that ma tter o f any o the r Diaspora Jewish
community, can produce a sizable number o f writers who will be
p repa red to take “Bialik’s H in t,” will continue to provide a debat­
able subject for years to come.
II
T he cu r ren t volume o f the
Jewish Book Annual
focuses attention
on a num ber o f themes tha t relate closely to the issues tha t were
highlighted at the conference on “Continuity and T ran sfo rm a­
tion in Jewish L itera ture.”
In his open ing article, Murray Baumgarten re tu rn s to a thesis
which he expounded in his volume o f criticism,
City Scriptures
(Harvard University Press, 1982). He examines American Jewish
writing within the context o f the city and indicates how u rban life
may continue to serve as the setting for a Jewish literary response
to modernity.
Harold Fisch examines the crisis in the Jewish family against
the background o f the trea tm en t o f the family in general litera­
ture. He describes how the “generation gap” is reflected in mod­