Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
28
protection for himself. He decides to smash out at anti-Semitism.
Now he makes the right contacts to bring pressure on Otis, mar-
ries a Jewish girl who appeals to Otis’ wife, makes a business deal
with a large advertiser Otis needs. By these means — and be-
cause Otis has a conscience — Otis relents and takes Cannaday
back into his firm. Cannaday is now resigned to continue to live
in the warmth of his Jewish family life.
All this lacks the ring of reality. The whole story is not made
believable. To be sure it is a novel of escape and return, the herb
of which is faced with the predicament of unsuccessful escapism.
He solves it by a successful readjustment of a sort of pugnacious
self-defensive accidental Jewishness. There is virtually no refer-
ence to his experiences and problems as a “passed” Jew, a subject
that could, indeed, make an engrossing story. And, there is prac-
tically nothing positively Jewish in the characters except for the
tribulations that arise from being Jewish. The hero lacks sym-
pathy, because he insists that self-concealment is completely
justified.
Another novel presenting the effort of one of its characters, a
Jew, to escape his Jewishness, again by change of name, is
That
winter
by Merle Miller (N. Y., Sloane, ’48). I t is a popular and
powerful novel dealing with the process of an intellectual’s return
to “normalcy” , as part of the “readjustment” period of three
veterans in New York City during the autumn of 1945 and winter
of 1946. I t contains one Jewish character whose adjustment
involves a most unsuccessful escape from his Jewishness. Peter,
the narrator, shares an apartment with two fellow veterans, Ted
and Lew Cole, formerly Colinsky. Ted, a rich man’s son, who
lost his arm in the war, ends it all by committing suicide. Lew
is determined to pass off as a non-Jew, tired as he is of anti-
Semitism and inferiority feeling. He falls in love with the anti-
Semitically minded Jane whom he is willing to marry. Her
interest in him is confined merely to her hope that he would
advance her artistic career. The denouement takes place when
the fiance and future mother-in-law meet. Discovering that Lew
is Jewish and convinced that he cannot do anything to further
her career, the girl walks out on him. Lew decides to give up his
radio writer’s career and go back to his people in Los Angeles,
there to enter his father’s jewelry business. Now, that he fell afoul
of the racial prejudice he had feared so long he gives up “passing.”
A novel of anti-Semitism as it hits the Jew is
The victim
by
Saul Bellow (N. Y., Vanguard, ’47). Actually it presents a subtle
study, written with power and insight, of the sometimes unwitting
effect of one man’s actions upon another person’s fate. I t is the
account of a young Jew, Asa Leventhal, who finds that his life is