Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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and in certain delimited areas of trade. Even Chaim Bermant,
one of the few novelists to write regularly from within and about
the community, describes it and its individual members as being
of marginal loyalty, uncertain in identity, losing or rediscovering
its roots. In the post-war scene, the Jewish community has
increasingly lost its specific locus, its separate flavor and its dis­
tinct ethnicity.
This does not mean that it therefore lacks particular Jewish
interest, either for the student of literature, or for the student of
society. It is indeed partly just because the edges of Jewish iden­
tity in Britain are now so blurred that its problematic nature and
also its expression in fiction are of such fascination. It is not even
theoretically possible to touch on, let alone to cover the scope of
thirty years of Anglo-Jewish fiction. As the subject is problematic,
it is also indefinable, and, in this sense, limitless. Anglo-Jewish fic­
tion grips in the way that the character portrayed (the individual
Jew) relates to his family (the Jewish family) and to the commu­
nity, first the Jewish community, and then the community at
large. There is a spectrum of attraction/repulsion, a sense of both
being insider and outsider. Within each story there is both a
dynamic of development for each individual and a range of
options presented by the various figures in the story. All the
forces mentioned above are at work on the characters in the fic­
tion and on the narrative viewpoint. What is the adhesive power
that holds the individual to his community, and what are the
countervailing factors that tear him away from such an associa­
tion? We can indeed posit a range in the fiction that goes from a
point of intense self-identification (emotional empathy) to ulti­
mate revulsion, as variously expressed by emigration (even if
aliyah), or marriage, or, finally, by madness, which is the ultimate
breach. In all these cases, we, as readers, can not legitimately
assume that we know the attitude of the author to his own plot.
But there may be a passion in the description presented and in
degrees of narratorial self-identification. The genre plays a part
in our recognition of authorial posture. We can assume that
Dannie Abse’s
Ash on a young man’s sleeve (
1954), as the first part of
a tripartite autobiography, lacks disguise. On the other hand,
although an apparently angry book, presents a number