Page 28 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 6 (1947-1948)

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JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
18
from the Nazis. The doctor rejects the repeated offers, and protests
th a t he has other little patients to treat.
Ordinarily such a book as
East river
by Sholem Asch, translated
[from the Yiddish] by A. H. Gross, (New York, Pu tnam , 1946)
would not require much attention here except momentarily, bu t
for several reasons it seems to call for more than casual notice.
First, it is fairly representative of what seems to be a trend in
current fiction, th a t is the use of Jewish material, phases of Jewish
life, ways of Jewish thought, handled in a fashion th a t amounts
to misrepresentation, far though this may have been from the
au thor’s intention. Another reason is th a t in this instance the
author is a man of hitherto virtually unchallenged eminence as a
novelist.
East river
is incontestably a novel, and its author is a
great novelist, but its theme seemed taken down from the shelf
and fitted to the plot; certainly it was not deeply felt. Like Anne
Nichols’
Abie's Irish rose
, it involves a Catholic-Jewish inter-
marriage and represents an effort to show th a t people of different
races and religions can live together at the river’s edge in mutual
amity. The rare narrative skill of Asch is employed in a panoramic
amplification of the
Abie's Irish rose
story. There are the some-
times friendly, sometimes hostile, racial and religious admixture,
the break with tradition, the inevitable intermarriage and the
ultimate forgiveness — even by the Hasidic grandfather!
The Miracle
0
} the bells
by Russell Janney (New York, Prentice-
Hall, 1946) is a novel written in a naive style designed to hold the
reader’s attention by sentimental elements. I t includes all the
elements of popularity — a Catholic priest, a Jewish movie
producer, a capitalist society woman, a young girl movie star, etc.
The claims made th a t it is a “ novel which contributes to inter-
religious understanding” is not borne out by the story it unfolds.
A competent reviewer (in
Commonweal
, Oct. 18, 1946) speaks of
it as “ the kind of novel about Catholics and Catholic ways usually
described as fit reading for the entire family. No one will come
down with sin after reading this book, but quite a few people will
come down with nausea and spasms of derisive laughter.”
What Asch and other novelists before him have tried to do
with inter-marriage as a weapon in the struggle against anti-
semitism has thus far proven as ineffective and weak in literature
as it has in life. I t ju s t does not work. This was fully realized by
Mrs. L .aura Zametkin Hobson when she undertook to cope with
the problem in her best-seller novel
Gentleman s agreement
(New
York, Simon and Schuster, 1947). Good expositions of anti-
semitism are not lacking bu t through the medium of a novel the
theme is illuminated and carries its message to people who can not
be reached by volumes offering many-sided diagnosis of the men­