Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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LIBERMAN / AUSTRALIAN JEWISH FICTION SINCE WORLD WAR II
61
Precise in language, emotion and physical description, its depic­
tion o f modern-day Israel and its beleaguered people elevate it to
a high o rder o f literary excellence.
The past years have also seen the emergence o f a number of
Jewish short story writers on the Australian scene.
One young writer worth watching is Michele Nayman, born in
London in 1956, whose first collection
Faces You Can't Find Again
was published in 1980. This is a collection o f stories in which the
elements that stand out most strongly are the sadness o f youth in
search o f a distinctive identity, o f meaningful relationships and
of a certain stability in the daunting, difficult world. Many o f the
protagonists are wanderers who d rift into and out of brief
relationships, forming fleeting attachments without expectation
that they will indeed be anything other than fleeting. Nayman’s
characters engage in any number o f encounters, but failure
seems to teach them little. So often, there is then the sense o f sta­
sis about them.
There are exceptions, however, and it is in these that the au­
tho r’s talents and potential become more apparent. In her best
stories, “Expectations” and “Story o f a Marriage,” the element of
time does enter. Here, time passes dynamically. People grow,
change. They graduate, marry, have children, work, show signs
of interacting with one another, of having individual voices.
There is here more exploration of character and, hence more
conflict and, however muted, some greater attempft at resolution.
When one considers that in Australia, a writer does not usually
make a mark until he is into his thirties or forties, Michele
Nayman, who is merely in her twenties, has made a good start
indeed.
POET AND STORYTELLER
Although making her debut as a poet with two collections of
verse,
Isaac Babel's Fiddle
and
Kaddish, and other Poems
(1982), Fay
Zwicky, born in Melbourne in 1933, has also emerged as a
storyteller of note with her “
Hostages
” (1983). These stories are all
concerned more or less ironically with the growth o f a writer’s
consciousness, a fact which may help to account for the varying
degrees of stylistic density and shifts in personae. A number of
the stories offer a view o f the protagonist’s struggle to establish a
female identity in a world dominated by masculine edicts and rit-