Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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yer, the pagan, sexually profligate but exciting Nick, the ex-
Marxist, state department officer and recalcitrant Jew, Enoch.
Ultimately the modes of all three prove wanting. Yet at a crucial
moment Enoch is seen reading Talmud. Cultural choices are
again offered, inconclusively, in the much later
Cannibal Galaxy
(1986). Here the JewJoseph Brill, who survived World War II in
the dungeon of a convent consuming the library of a deceased
priest, resolves to establish a school in which elements of French
and Hebraic culture are to be fused into a harmonious curricu­
lum. Ambitiously conceived within its naturally limited frame,
the curriculum in practice becomes merely humdrum, as Brill
himself loses enthusiasm. His teachers never understood it and
mothers had their own unrelated ideas of what is good for their
offspring. Other cultural choices need to be made and Ozick
manages to supply a goodly share of surprises, reflecting her own
ideas as to the nature of genius and its relationship to education.
KAHN /AMERICAN-JEWISH LITERATURE AFTER BELLOW, MALAMUD AND ROTH
9
ESSENTIAL JEWISHNESS
No writer on the American-Jewish scene is as integrally Jewish
as Cynthia Ozick, in the sense that she blends national, cultural
and religious components. If at times, more in her essays than in
her fiction, she strikes many as ethnocentrically Jewish, this is at
least partly due to hearing the unaccustomed voice of a wholly
Jewish writer.
Ozick has crowded authentic Jewish experience into her work.
Biblical references abound, the knowledge of Jewish life in other
countries is live (the
Edmond Fleg
School of the
Cannibal Galaxy
is
named after a deceased French-Jewish poet), and the presence of
the Holocaust is felt. Enoch in
Trust
has the task after the war of
tabulating the figures of the Jewish dead. Joseph Brill escaped
detection only through a miracle. Though Ozick’s characters feel
secure in America her journalistic work more than her fiction
leaves no doubt that she has not forgotten what it means to be
Jewish in a largely hostile world.
In spite of her successful use of phantasy and paradox, a credi­
ble fusion of the serious with the comic, there are flaws in her
work. Her fictions seem lacking in spontaneity at times, are
labored and display an often obsessive seriousness about lan­
guage. This leads to the impression that there are private mean­