Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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with the Hitler crimes, the Jewish writer unwittingly assumed the
part of augur in a world grown infinitely dangerous.
Another theory advanced for the eminence of Jewish literature
centered on the alleged malaise of the age, alienation. The role of
the Jew was perceived historically as that of a solitary wanderer in
the chaos of the world. The Jew’s memories were such that they
precluded uninhibited, free reliationships with others. Participa­
tion in human affairs had paradoxically become more problem­
atic at a moment when politically and socially he had become
more involved than ever before. He had not forgotten his out­
sider status, had come to terms with his own brand of isolation
and estrangement, and had developed an interest in the fate of
those marginal groups who had taken over his former position.
Blacks, Hispanics, Orientals were the new outsiders, still too pre­
occupied with their physical and economic status to be aware fully
of their psychological and spiritual alienation. The Jews had seen
it all and could offer lessons in all forms of alienation.
For this or other reasons, the Jewish writer who had labored for
so long in the shadow of Dos Passos, Hemingway, Faulkner,
Dreiser and Lewis, suddenly became interesting and fashionable.
But there were even then detractors, Jewish and others, who rec­
ognized no exceptional merit in Bellow, Malamud and Roth.
They attributed the Renaissance to the New York intellectual
establishment that had willed its own heroes into the limelight.
Others denounced the Jewish novel as just the latest fad. The
American reading public would quickly weary of the Jew as it had
previously of the tycoon, then the proletarian and the decadent
Southerner. The Renaissance was also ascribed by some to the
high number of Jewish readers, mostly educated women who
then recommended the novels to husbands and others.
All theories concerning the causes, worth and success of the Jew­
ish novel contained some truth, but none encapsuled the whole
Given that Bellow, Malamud and Roth had surfeited the once
virginal field of Jewish literature, the newer writers had the
unenviable task of staking out new territory and laying claim to
some originality of their own. They built, to be sure, on the work