Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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64
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
required in
The bankrupts
(whose tide points ironically to the spir­
itual state of its moneyed dramatis personae),
Proofs of affection
is,
as that title suggests, an affectionate look at a tradition which has
a hard time dying. Here the roles are reversed. It is the modern
world which seems exhausted and empty of value, and it is the old
tradition which might be capable of investing it with some sort of
meaningful content. The characters are as fallible, as weak and as
vain as in the other works, but they are viewed tolerantly. In the
first place, Sydney Shelton (who as usual for the male head of
household sets the tone) is not just Jewishly conformist. He is gen­
uinely religious. The story spans the cycle of one Jewish calendar
year, from one New Year festival to the next, and we are intro­
duced to our (unfortunate) hero as . . praying avidly, swaying
back and forth, from the book in front of him” at the synagogue.
His wife is watching him fondly from the gallery above, and the
affection between them is palpable and mutual. There is ready
communication and care between husband and wife which is con­
veyed to the children too. And although Sydney would like his
children to follow in his footsteps, he does not shout, force or
even browbeat. On the contrary, he is tolerant and forgiving. The
children, Joshua, Rachel and Carol, are all due to move out of the
parents’orbit in their various ways, as is perhaps not only inevita­
ble in an open and mobile environment, but also necessary for the
healthy development of the adult personality. But unlike the
young generation in
The bankrupts,
the way is left open for a
future return. And that indeed begins to take place before the
novel’s end. This seems possible too for Sara in
The crossing point,
but it is only a live possibility there because she is so unusually
saintly. The other children, we assume, will never again substan­
tially come under the influence of the unpleasant Gabriel. In
Proofs o f affection,
the children move on to adulthood , bu t
potentially back again as equals. Even as they break away, they do
so reluctantly. Joshua grieves that he cannot afford gratification
to his father on the holy day (by attending synagogue) even whilst
giving another sort of gratification to his new Gentile girlfriend.
Carol is conformist anyway, and she escapes parental control
because of her husband’s drive for independence for both of
them, as individuals and as a couple. He sees the need for her to
stake out on her own and to go to him. Rachel is a true outsider,
and she goes off to India with her boyfriend. She had early dis­
liked the Jewish notion of election, of being chosen from amongst