Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
tradition rather dim, floating out of history, but also vividly mani­
fest in the actual life of the Jewish community, which has reared
him and which encompasses him. Jews have another story, in
time and space, other languages and other claims. Does this dis­
tinction involve dislocation? Does one tradition claim priority
over the other? Britishness can only be discarded by leaving the
country, by changing one’s nationality, language and focus. The
claims ofJewishness are apparently vaguer and less insistent. The
Jews are a minority community within an open society. One can
move from one sector to another, free of coercion, or even of
manifest disadvantage. Politically, legally, linguistically, even
socially and culturally, although perhaps not religiously (here the
sense is of ethnic and communal association), little distinguishes
Jew from Gentile, particularly within the third generation after
immigration and beyond. It is, therefore, of singular interest to
examine the traces of Jewish involvement in a literature con­
ducted by Anglo-Jewish writers entirely “British,” who describe a
recognizably Jewish environment in which they operate and from
which they take their being.
No easy substitution of narrator with author should be made.
The author’s vantage point is not necessarily that of any one of his
characters, nor o f the narra to r, nor even o f tha t assumed
narratorial voice that moves behind the events and controls them.
Nor, it must be added, is our subject matter necessarily of over­
whelming significance for the author in his opus over all. The
Jewish world is the minority subject o f almost all contemporary
Anglo-Jewish novelists. Rosemary Friedman had written some
dozen novels before her first intensely Jewish one,
Proofs o f affec­
tion
(1982). Gerda Charles had also written several novels before
arriving at one “with a specifically Jewish theme” (her words) in
The crossing point
(1961). Brian Glanville had not written of the
Jewish community before
The bankrupts
(1958), and he has not
since returned to it very much. Frederic Raphael’s heroes are
often Jewish, but only tangentially related to the Jewish world.
They do, however, sometimes aspire to grasp something of what
Jewish identity means to them, as in
Limits of love
(1963). Wolf
Mankowitz’s early work, as in
K id fo r two farth ings
(1953),
recognizably derives from a Jewish scene, but it also belongs to a
period and a setting in the East End where that environment bore
more tangible marks of a demarcated community, Yiddish speak­
ing, with links in Europe, with activities around the synagogue