Page 227 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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KESSNER / ON BEHALF OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
2 1 9
literature in
The American Jew: A Reappraisal,
edited by Oscar
Janowsky, and a beautiful re-evaluation o f Henry Roth’s
Call
I t Sleep
when that work was republished in 1964.22 In 1969
she took on Philip Roth’s
Portnoy's Complaint,
an attack which
Roth himself peevishly referred to in his later novel
The Professor
o f Desire.
All the while she continued to write her own verse
— two poems were to be anthologized in the
New York Times
Book o f Verse
edited by Thomas Lask, an anthology o f the best
poetry to have appeared in the
Times
between 1920 and 1970.
Z IO N I S T R E S P O N S IB IL IT IE S
When Marie Sykrin retired as Professor Emerita from
Brandeis University in 1966 she returned to New York to re­
sume a full and satisfying life with Charles Reznikoff (who by
now was getting belated recognition as an important American
poet) and to continue her activity in the public sphere. With
a desk at the Jewish Agency, she took up a new role as editor
o f Herzl Press and she assumed her responsibilities as an elected
member o f the World Zionist Organization. Now sixty-seven
years old, she continued to lecture around the country, to serve
on the editorial board o f
Midstream
and the
Jewish Frontier,
to
write for such disparate publications as
Commentary, Dissent, The
Nation, The Saturday Review, The New York Times Magazine
and
most lately for the
New Republic.
She kept up her periodic trips
to Israel, and in 1973 went there to write a major piece for
Golda Meir, by then the busy Prime Minister (and for whom
she had become a speech writer); the article, “ Israel in Search
o f Peace” appeared in
Foreign Affairs,
April 1973. She also edited
an anthology o f the speeches o f Golda Meir, and not the least,
Gleanings: A Diary in Verse,
a volume o f poems she had written
over a period o f sixty years, was published in 1978.
21. Marie Syrkin, “Th e Literature o f the Holocaust,”
Midstream,
Vol. X I I , no.
5 (May 1986), p. 3. This pioneer essay in which Syrkin applies the tools
o f literary criticism to the literature o f the Holocaust appeared ten years
before the first serious book length literary analysis o f the subject,
The
Holocaust and the Literary Imagination
by Lawrence Langer.
22. Some years later, in 1977, Syrkin tracked Roth down in Albuquerque, N ew
Mexico where he was then living. He gave her a memoir, “Kaddish” for
Midstream
explaining that he had broken his long literary silence under
the impact o f the 1967 war in Israel and that this piece was both his break
with his radical past and his identification with the Jewish people.