Page 43 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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31
BLOCH----THE YEAR’S BOOKSHELF
partially absorbed into Chinese civilization. He returns Peony’s
ardor with comparable intensity, but their plans for marriage
shatter against the bland, unyielding wall of social custom. David
must choose between Leah, the lovely daughter of the rabbi whom
his family wishes him to marry, and Peony to whom his heart
inclines. To circumvent the barrier, and with connivance of
Peony, David marries a Chinese girl of his own class rather than
the rabbi’s daughter and installs the woman he really wants as
his housekeeper, a position she holds until they both find the
arrangement morally disquieting and she departs for a nunnery.
Powerful and moving as the story is, it is not a very stirring love
story, but quite interesting for several secondary reasons, such
as the implication that David, the Jew who has lost touch with
his cultural origins, represents the strain of Judaism that has been
absorbed into the mainstream of Chinese culture. It is unfortu-
nate that Miss Buck saw fit to inject into her novel some of the
prevalent anti-Semitic notions of aspects of Jewish life and belief
born largely of a distorted view of Jews and Judaism. And that’s
a novel for which it is claimed that it deals with one of today’s
chief themes, tolerance.
Ihe rabbi of Bacherach
by Heinrich Heine [prose translation
by E. B. Ashton] with a selection from Heine’s letters and an
epilogue by Erich Lowenthal (N. Y., Schocken, ’47) contains the
surviving fragment of an unfinished novel, written during the
poet’s period of youthful interest in Jewish history and dealing with
the flight of the rabbi and his wife from a fifteenth century pogrom
in Germany. Jewish communal and home life is beautifully por-
trayed. The selections of the poet’s correspondence of 1824-1825
dealing with the story, which follow the text, are even more
fascinating.
A powerful novel of discrimination on two continents present-
ing an absorbing love story with racing narrative and sensitive
characterization built around a significant theme is
This precious
dust
by Rita Kissin (Chicago, Ziff-Davis, ’48). It tells the story
of Julie Maast, the daughter of a Bavarian rabbi who runs off
to marry a Nazi. Hitler’s rise to power destroys her marriage and
robs her of her son. She comes to America, marries again out of
her faith and finds happiness in the adoption of a Jewish war
orphan. She discovers that discrimination in this country again
threatens her happiness and it takes a near tragedy to convince
her new husband of the danger. In depicting Nazi and American
anti-Semitism and in many of the incidents and dialogues the novel
maintains a power and a value that hold the interest of the reader.
Unfortunately it is marred by the heroine’s treachery to her father
and to the faith in which she was born. Her meaningless assaults