Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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The Post-War
Anglo-Jewish Family Novel
u c h
i n k
h a s
been spilt over the vexed and ultimately open
question what is a Jewish writer, or, alternatively, what is Jewish
writing? Clearly, an ethnic definition of the author is irrelevant
except insofar as it involves the sympathies of self-identification
of the narrator. Likewise, no single ethical or religious viewpoint
is mandatory. Harold Pollins, in his article “Sociological Aspects
of Anglo-Jewish Literature”
(JewishJournal of Sociology,
vol. 2, no.
1, 1960) stated the obvious in writing that . . a Jewish novel is
not necessarily a religious novel, or one in which religious atti­
tudes are importan t themes.” This is an understatem ent, as
Anglo-Jewish fiction scarcely touches on the religious in its meta­
physical sense at all, and it is difficult in the context to make out
any other significance for that term. But then Pollins continues,
“More positively, it (i.e. Anglo-Jewish literature — L.I.Y.) is Jew­
ish because the characters and situations are Jewish.” This is the
sense in which I will treat the topic — fiction where the figures
bear the general characteristics ofJewishness, and operate within
the parameters of, or as affected by, the Jewish community. But I
would also add that this narrative is generally relayed by an
involved narrator, not one who just observes curiously from the
outside. This transforms the fiction into a Jewish story promul­
gated in a Jewish voice.
On the British scene, the Anglo-Jewish writer moves in the
shadow of differing but overlapping categories. His language is
English, usually exclusively so. Even its foreign traces do not
derive from the sources of another literary tradition which must
simply be poured into the vessel of the adoptive culture. His
memory, as personally shaped, is of Britain and things British,
and his experience is often limited to these islands and the
assumptions o f those within them. And yet, there is also another