Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

Basic HTML Version

A Survey of American Jewish Books in English for 1945-46
B y J
o s h u a
l och
h e reasons for the increased demand for Jewish books in
recent years for the most par t root back into the general
change of mood which has taken place in Jewry and which is
reflected in the whole realm of Jewish literary output. I t is no
exaggeration to say tha t this period has seen one of the most
striking changes in feeling, mood and taste. I t is striking because
the change took place not as changes in literary trends have
usually occurred — gradually over a generation or half-century —
but was telescoped within a very few years. This, in the main,
of course, has been due to the war, but partly, also, to causes at
work before the war. In a word, the change can be described in
the phrase of Van Wyck Brooks, as “ a hunger for affirmations.”
Mr. Brooks writes, “ I see on all sides a hunger for affirmations,
for a world without confusion, waste or groping, a world tha t is
full of order and purpose.”
For almost a generation we have been living on a literary diet of
criticism which has been largely self-criticism with over-emphasis
on the apologetic. I t has, no doubt, been needed and salutary,
and has had large ethical and social and religious value; people
have made the discovery tha t as one cannot live by bread alone
so one cannot live merely by self-criticism and apologetics. One
cannot live in a spiritual vacuum from which energizing faith has
been exhausted. Especially during the disastrous years preceding
the war and those of the war itself many exhorters have been
running about the Jewish world, psychological, economic and
social, with sharp peering eyes and diagnostic fingers, crying as
Mat thew Arnold said Goethe cried, “Thou ailest here and here.”
In those years there was piled up the greatest amount of clinical
diagnosis tha t a sick world ever saw. I f the Jew could be saved
by expert diagnosis of disease, he ought to have been saved by
*Through the courtesy of Harry Schneiderman the writer was able to make use
of the American Jewish Bibliography 1945-46 which Miss Iva Cohen compiled for
American Jewish Year Book.