Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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LIBERMAN / AUSTRALIAN JEWISH FICTION SINCE WORLD WAR II
55
generations, and the nagging, aching pulsations o f irrepressible
nostalgia. He deals, as every migrant must, with mixed mar­
riages; also with the tragedy o f a Yiddish writer without an
audience, the indifference towards the Yiddish language, and
the disappointment stemming from the awareness that the cul­
ture that he and his generation wished to transpose on Australian
soil would never find adequate nu rtu re here.
Regrettably, while
Between Sky and Sea
is artistically excellent,
much o f Bergner’s other work is patchy in quality. Some o f the
situations are forced and not infrequently they lapse into melo­
drama. An ambitious work such as
Light and Shadow
, for all the
cross-currents that are brought to play in this story of three gen­
erations coming to terms with themselves, with each other and
with the unfamiliar Australian milieu, remains sadly flat and su­
perficial.
All this notwithstanding, a strong argument could be pressed
for the translation o f Bergner’s works, as o f the works o f
Goldhar. For whatever the reservations, they are immensely val­
uable as documents of an age that is receding and that is effect­
ively captured through the artistic endeavors o f the writer.
EXPONENT OF RADICALISM
Judah Waten, the third member of this group, has been the
most controversial of modern Australian writers. The contro­
versy surrounds his unabashed leftist political leanings. But he is
also the first immigrant from Eastern Europe — he was born in
Odessa and was brought to Australia at the age o f two — to have
made a reputation as an Australian writer. He has opened up a
new path with his novels about immigrants, and in this he is an
Australian literary pioneer.
Although he had published some stories before, he burst upon
the Australian literary scene in 1952 with his
Alien Son,
a collec­
tion of loosely-connected stories recounting his childhood in
Perth around the period of World War I. This collection has
come to be regarded as an Australian classic and has been praised
for its good humor, warmth, pathos and delicacy. Here, too, as
with Goldhar and Bergner, the issues o f adjustment, conflict be­
tween old and new, and assimilation are raised, but there is none
of the darkness of the Yiddish writers’works. Waten’s characters,
particularly his mother, are alive and likeable; the issues faced