Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

Basic HTML Version

29
BLOCH----THE YEARNS BOOKSHELF
inexplicably tied up with Kirby Allbee, a Gentile whom he has
supposedly harmed in an obscure way years before. He is easily
upset when he is accosted by Allbee and blamed for everything
that had happened to him, from the loss of his job to the death of
his wife. Allbee makes his accusations sound plausible. He trails
Leventhal around town, follows him home to repeat his accusa-
tion, touches him for loans and finally moves in with him. Leven-
thal is now outraged, then incredulous. Never sure of himself
he temporizes, delays and ultimately begins to crack, to half be-
lieve in his own guilt. He gets himself wound up in an agonizing
tangle of self-recrimination, confused thinking and futile soul-
searching. As a Jew Leventhal has his share of anti-Semitism —
not in the concentrated forms it takes in most novels on the sub-
ject, but in the subtler manifestations of overheard conversations
and polite remarks that all Jews are familiar with.
The apparent inability of Leventhal to formulate any answer
to this sort of talk helps clothe
The victim
in reality; for Leventhal
faces a personal problem, not a social problem, one that can’t be
shrugged off as easily as a “restricted” sign at a summer resort.
I t is a remarkable novel in which Mr. Bellow explores such capital-
letter problems as Anti-Semitism, Guilt, Brotherhood, Identity
and the Good Life, and enables the reader to have a good look at
the psychological pit down which many Allbees and Leventhals
slide. He attempts to compress into an arena, the size of two
human souls, the agony of mind which has ravaged millions of
Jews.
The victim
is a subtle and thoughtful contribution to the
literature of anti-Semitism. It fulfills the Conradian object of the
novel — to make one see.
A novel of Jewish interest in which anti-Semitism plays a sig-
nificant role is
Moon Gaffney
by Harry Sylvester (N. Y., Holt,
’47). Its hero is a young Irish Catholic politician who, to rise
in Tammany Hall and eventually, he hopes, to become Mayor of
New York, has only to go on playing ball with hearty, rather
vacant-minded friends and fellow-workers, doing the dirty work
of the Hall, opposing unions as communist-controlled, and protect-
ing at any cost the interests of the Church. But all does not go well.
Moon’s conscience gets the better of him. He makes friends with
radical Catholics and through them he discovers that class hatred
is to be found in high places as well as in Tammany, in his own
parish and elsewhere. He refuses to play an anti-Semitic, anti-
Negro, anti-labor role and thereby offends several influential
priests. He soon finds himself driven out of politics. He goes to
see Father Malone for an explanation and is offered an opportu-
nity to get in right again by joining “a new organization of influ-
ence” outside of the Hall, “fighting atheistic Communism and