Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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LOWIN / DAVID GROSSMAN’S USEFUL FICTIONS
115
recently she said, “my whole life had been given over to the
religion of Art, which is the religion of the Gentile nations —
I had no other aspiration, no other commitment, was zealous
for no other creed.”2 But she has since become Judaized, she
says in her paper. Lashing out at Robbe-Grillet’s contention that
the novel can by its very nature be about nothing but itself,
she calls for “the novel as a Jewish force,” one that judges and
interprets the world, in which authors write “of conduct and
of the consequences of conduct” (Ozick, p. 164). In 1970, Ozick
spoke specifically of a Jewish Diaspora literature based in Amer­
ica; she concerned herself little with Israeli literature.
GROSSMAN AND THE WRITER’S JOB
David Grossman, the newest and brightest star on Israel’s lit­
erary horizon, takes up the debate on the usefulness of fiction,
idiosyncratically, to be sure, out of the depths of Israel’s his­
torical experience. Born in 1954, Grossman likes to remind his
readers that he belongs to the generation that became
bar mitz-
vah
during the time of the Six-Day War in 1967 and that he
therefore has a unique perspective on the consequences of that
war, one that reflects and might even represent the concerns
of his contemporaries.
Intellectually, Grossman’s was a generation that was strongly
influenced by French authors Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Cam­
us, both writers for whom literature was to be not
moralizing
but
moral,
a type of writing “which claimed only,” as Robbe-
Grillet says in dissent, “to awaken political awareness by stating
the problems of our society, but which would escape the spirit
of propaganda by returning the reader to his liberty” (Robbe-
Grillet, p. 43). Grossman himself has written in that same spirit,
stating that “the writer’s job . . . is to put a finger on the wound,
to write anew, in a language that the reader has not yet learned
to insulate himself against, about the intricacies of the existing
situation, to shatter stereotypes that make it easy not to deal
with problems. The writer’s job is to remind those who have
2. Cynthia Ozick. “Toward a New Yiddish.” Talk delivered at the Weizmann
Institute, in Rehovoth, Israel in 1970. Printed in Ozick’s
Art
Ardor,
New
York: Knopf, 1983, p. 157.