Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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19
BLOCH ---- THE YEAR ’S BOOKSHELF
fully written novel by Irwin Shaw, the playwright and short story
writer, is, like Mailer’s book, a powerful piece of writing. There
are striking points of identity between the two books. They hate
the enemy and everything he stands for; they are angry with the
evils they see on their own side: a broad streak of fascist spirit,
lack of integrity and ideals among “ the crusaders.” Among their
characters are some choice antisemites, sadists and bullies; officers,
nobodies in civilian life, blown up with self-importance, abusing
privileges, unequal to their responsibilities and coarse, ignor-
ant enlisted men without a notion of what they are fighting
for.
The characters in the novel are introduced first as civilians.
Among them is Diestl, a skiing instructor, a handsome and seem-
ingly decent young man, though a Nazi, and Noah Ackerman, shy,
inexperienced and somewhat of a weakling. He is half-killed, in
training, by a gang of maniacal antisemites who have his captain’s
blessing. His fight as a Jew turns him into a tough, fearless and
resourceful soldier. Diestl becomes a cold, effective killer, a one-
man military machine.
Ira Wolfert is an able writer and Pulitzer Prize reporter. His
novel on the battle for the Solomons
An act of love
(N. Y., Simon
and Schuster, 1948) deals almost exclusively with a small island
in the Solomons. I t is a study of a sick mind and is only secondarily
a war novel. I t is the story of Harry Brunner, who abandoned
the study of law to volunteer for service in the Air Force. Because
he was a Jew, Brunner felt he had to be braver than the others.
He bore a heavy burden of complexes, guilt, fear, indecision, and
apprehension.
The stories of his role in battle are told, in the novel, with deep
understanding of the moods of men in combat, of the psychology
of both naval and jungle warfare.
An Act of Love
is not merely a
good war novel, it is more than that. Mr. Wolfert understands
how close hate is to love and love to hate. The basic idea of
An
Act of Love
is that modern civilization is sick with fear and greed,
with selfishness and hatred. There are those who find a diseased
world natural and never realize that it is an ailing world.
A slight but well-written war novel is
From the city
,
from the
plough
, by Alexander Baron (N. Y., Washburn, 1949). The author,
who is an Englishman, tells the story of a British infantry battalion
in combat and its annihilation in the course of three months.
One Jewish character presents an opportunity for the Christian
officers to give vent to their sentiments and attitudes toward Jews.
Dr. Alfred A. Weinstein was captured by the Japanese early in
the war. For three and a half years he was a prisoner, first in
the Philippines and later in Japan. In
Barbed-wire surgeon
(N. Y.,