Page 57 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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Australian Jewish Fiction Since
World War II
is an apt time from which to begin a survey of con­
temporary Australian Jewish fiction. The War was, after all, a cat­
aclysmic event and however much we may deplore it for the
carnage, devastation and sheer wastage of human lives, on an­
other level, it did prove something of a watershed in the life of
Australian Jewry. For as well as consolidating the community as
an integral entity, the War resulted in a large migration o f Euro­
pean Jews to Australia (large, that is, by Australian standards) —
as it did to the United States, South America, South Africa, etc. —
the effects o f which are still evident. Communal organization has
become more sophisticated; the community as a whole has be­
come more diverse, settled and affluent; and literary activity has
become progressively more assured. Further, with the transplan­
tation of a large number of individuals, predominantly from
Central and Eastern Europe as against the earlier migration of
Anglo-Jews, there has taken place an increased preoccupation
among many Jews, with their identity and allegiances. In some it
found expression in a strong inextricable Jewishness (as reflected
in the works of the Yiddish writers Goldhar and Bergner) or in
cosmopolitanism (as with David Martin), while others like Judah
Waten, Morris Lurie and the present writer have tried to straddle
the gap between them.
Themes essentially new to the Australian literary scene have
emerged, either presaging or paralleling those of other minority
groups (Greek, Italian, Maltese, Austrian, etc.) as Australian soci­
ety has tended towards a broader and more widely accepted
multi-culturalism. These themes include:
the opposing attractions towards assimilation and towards
increasing isolation within one’s own minority milieu;