Page 70 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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58
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
of possibilities. This is in the nature o f the novel as a genre,
although in Glanville’s case we do perceive a lack of authorial dis­
tance from his narrative presentation. In all these works, how­
ever, the narrator, implicit or explicit, is locked into a committed
posture, sympathetic or antipathetic.
Without ob trud ing overt narrato ria l sympathy, emotional
involvement can be suggested by the story. Prominent in these
Jewish novels is the family setup as a background to the plot. The
family is naturally always decisive in the development of the indi­
vidual. The Jewish novel, particularly when dealing with adoles­
cent struggle and the process of maturation, is set in a family con­
text against which the individual measures himself. The family is
also a link between the individual and the community, acting as
the larger society in microcosm with its patterns of example,
authority, mutual aid and control. The Jewish family, with its
memory of the
heym
still fresh, retained a generally traditional
structure and hierarchy up into the sixties and seventies. The pat­
tern reflected in some Anglo-Jewish novels is of a dominating
father, a concessive and conformist mother, with the children
torn between obedience to parents and a wish for full self-
expression. A number of children in the family allows the possi­
bility of various reactions to the environment, ranging from
conformism to parental wishes and models on the one hand, to
outright rebellion on the other. Intermarriage is the most deci­
sive step out, because it implies, in the fictional context, removal
from the family and thus from the Jewish community altogether.
COMMUNAL STANDARDS
The Jewish community, by definition, figures prominently in
this fiction. The
oeuvre
can clarify its posture towards it either
through the thoughts and opinions of the characters or through
the narrator and narrative tone. Gerda Charles’s
The crossingpoint
expresses its ambivalence through its main character Leo, who
(unexpectedly, in view of the doubts he raises) is a communal
rabbi in a fashionable North-West London suburb. From his posi­
tion and title, Leo might be expected to be fully identified with
the world of traditional Judaism and strongly to resist any ten­
dency towards deviation, change or assimilation into the encom­
passing English environment. And yet his unvoiced yearnings
are in precisely the unexpected direction. He muses, “I don’t