Page 226 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
usual group o f intellectuals, many o f whom would become
Marie’s close friends — Ludwig Lewisohn, Irving Howe, Milton
Hindus, Ben Halpern (her colleague from the early
Jewish F ro n ­
tier
days). And it was here that she influenced a number o f
students who themselves would go on to make significant ca­
reers and who would become lifelong devoted admirers.
However much teaching at the university level brought the
longed-for release from the drudgery o f those high school
years, and even more so, the unimagined fulfillment o f aca­
demic dreams, Marie did not now retire from active life merely
to live a tranquil one among the groves o f academe. She con­
tinued her polemical arguments in the pages o f the
Jewish F ron ­
tier
, and in many other publications, taking on such formidable
adversaries as Arnold Toynbee, Hannah Arendt, and I. F.
Stone.20 She produced a biography o f her father,
Nachman
Syrkin: Socialist Zionist,
and a biography o f her friend Golda
Meir. The remarkable aspect o f this book is suggested by the
date o f publication — 1955; at this time the future Prime Min­
ister was still known as Golda Myerson and held the post o f
Labor Minister. It was a good many years before she would
become the great public figure who would be the sought after
subject o f myriad interviews and proposed biographies.
During the Brandeis years Marie also addressed herself to
literary subjects — though usually to those with a Jewish ori­
entation. She translated the poetry o f Nellie Sachs and wrote
a penetrating analysis o f the Nobel Prize Winner’s oeuvre. One
o f the first to teach a course on Holocaust Literature, as early
as 1966, in an essay in
Midstream,
she argued a point that later
would become a commonplace o f the genre: “ the literature o f
the Holocaust . . . eludes the usual classification because o f the
very nature o f its theme. The accepted literary categories —
novels, plays, verse, essays — are unsatisfactory because they
assume a measure o f formal achievement to warrant consider­
ation . . . ”21 She wrote a pioneer essay on American Jewish
20. T h e Toynbee essay was in response to his notorious chapter “Th e M odern
West and the Jews,” in Vol. 8 o f his
A Study o f History,
in which he equates
the fate o f the European Jews with that o f Palestinian Arabs. T h e response
to I. F. Stone was in answer to his p ro -A rab essay in
New York Review o f
Books
after the six day war. Th e challenge to Hannah Arendt was in regard
to her assertion in
Eichmann in Jerusalem
that the Jews were complicitors
in their own fate, and in response to her phrase “the banality o f evil.”