Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
18
which the tragedy of Polish Jewry’s destruction at the hands
of the Nazis and their accessories to murder is vividly described.
In addition to summaries of writings of both deceased and sur-
viving heroes of resistance in Poland, it also offers a short but
readable survey of Polish Jewish history giving special attention
to the two decades of Poland’s new independence and exposes
the antisemitism of those who were behind the London Govern-
ment in Exile.
FICTION BOOKS ON THE RECENT WAR
The final volume of Dos Passos’ Spotswood trilogy is entitled
The grand design
(Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1949). I t is a
novel which deals with the New Deal from 1933 to its defeat
and temporary abandonment ten years later. Comparing this
novel to the great contributions Dos Passos has made to American
fiction one cannot help concluding that it is not a novel at all.
I t is a fanatically conceived political tract in which the cha-
racters, instead of being persons, are personifications of argu-
ments and prejudices. I t is not only a willfully falsified picture
of the New Deal born out of hatred and bias but also a vicious
antisemitic tract.
What has happened to Dos Passos? When one calls to mind
his role in American literature, one can not help but deplore
the fact that, judged by this novel, his new role is an ignomi-
nious one. His earlier novels will always be counted among
his best books. They have contributed considerably to the change
in the nature of the American novel and have had a powerful
influence upon several of the most recently produced war novels
such as those of Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw and others.
Until enough time has elapsed for the historian to analyze the
effects of the war and revolutions that have plagued this ge-
neration, the novelist and the journalist share the task of in-
terpretation. The past year has brought a spate of war novels,
some of them run of the mill, none of them of a stature to assure
them a permanent place in literature. An impressive, and, in
many ways, highly satisfying and ruthlessly honest novel about
combat in the Second World War is
The naked and the dead
by Norman Mailer (N.Y., Rinehart 1948). In this story of
an imaginary battle in the Pacific each of the ten flashbacks
sketches the past life of the leading characters, two of which
are Jewish. They are presented as the product of a certain en-
vironment. They are real persons, speaking the vernacular of
human bitterness and agony.
The young lions
(N. Y., Random, 1948), a first and beauti­