Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
36
’47) deals with a basic conflict of our times — perhaps the basic
conflict — between the Left and the Right. I t is a story of the
conflict of two brothers, Clark and Tom Egan, one is conser-
vative, the other liberal, and of the deepening of the tensions
between them when Tom, the liberal one, who comes slowly to
positive faith in “ the Left,” falls in love with Rodia Martin, an
uncompromising Jewish girl from Baltimore.
Howard Fast was twenty years old, and working twelve hours
a day in a factory when he wrote
The children
(N. Y., Duell,
Sloan and Pearce, ’47). I t is the story of a group of ten and eleven
year-old boys on a slum street on New York’s upper West Side —
the kind of street Howard Fast had grown up on, not many years
before he wrote
The children
which was originally published in
1937. It explains a lot about the author and something about the
world in which too many New York children still grow up. Ishky
was a Jewish boy with a dream of a secret garden just behind the
back-yard fence. A bit of grass grew under that fence, promise
of garden beyond. But when he climbed to the roof he could see
that behind the fence was only rubbish. Ollie, a fair-haired Irish
tough, was king of the block, and Marie, yellow-haired Italian,
was its queen. Ollie called Ishky a “stinking-kike,” until the day
when Ishky dared try to lift the airshaft, from roof to roof. Ishky
was afraid of Ollie, and proud when Ollie invited him to join a
gang to fight the “niggers” down the block. Shoemake, an Italian
boy who played the fiddle, was the only boy in the block who
could share Ishky’s inarticulate awareness that beauty was the
secret of what to most eyes looked like a dirty world. It was a
dirty world in that block. It was a world of insults and dirty
language. Fast wrote the dirty words down, none of them in
essence dirtier than “kike” and “harp” and “wop.” All the dirty
words were merely phrases of insult, arising out of emptiness and
insecurity.
The children
is a story of what foul things fear can do,
even to a ten-year old poet. It is a tragic and compassionate story.
It is a true child’s story, close to living memory. Mr. Fast says
he wrote this story “out of bitterness and hate for what our society
does to children.”
m o r g e n s t e r n
s
i n
m y
f a t h e r
s
p a s t u r e s
In my father s pastures
, a novel by Soma Morgenstern; trans-
lated from the German by Ludwig Lewisohn (Philadelphia, Jewish
Publication Society of America; N. Y., Farrar, Straus, ’48) is in
a way a sequel to the author’s
The son of the lost son
which appeared
in 1946. I t is the story of a young Austrian Jew’s discovery, in the
nineteen-twenties, of his Jewish heritage. His sudden grasp of