Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
24
grim story of the persecutions, insults and humiliations which
Shylock and his co-religionists were subjected to in Christian
Venice of the sixteenth century. He also records something of
Shylock’s generous efforts to help beleaguered Jews in other cities
who were being tortured, sold as slaves, robbed and martyred
for their loyalty to the faith of their fathers.
The historical novel has enjoyed a unique popularity through
the last several decades. Howard Fast is no stranger in the field
of the historical novel. What plaudits he has gained for his past
efforts will seem meager by comparison with the encomiums he
should enjoy for his
My glorious brothers
(Boston, Little Brown,
1948), a novel of the Maccabees. I t has received the award of
the Jewish Book Council of America for the “best fiction work of
Jewish interest published during the past year.” The story is told
in the form of memoirs of Simon, the last to survive of the five
glorious brothers, who together led the Jews in their long and
victorious war of independence against the Graeco-Syrian op-
pressors in the second century B. C. E., and thereby preserved
Israel’s independence until the Roman conquest. I t presents a
stirring chapter in Jewish history. I t is a story of persecution,
murder, and rape, terminated by the few who arose against the
many. Correctly presenting the Maccabean revolt as one of simple
folks rising up in defense of their religion and freedom, Fast has
put into their mouth the slogan: “Resistance to tyranny is the
truest obedience to God.” In employing the story of the Mac-
cabees, Fast gives his contemporaries a better insight into their
own times and problems. I t deals with the struggle of liberation
against the occupation forces of a decadent Greek empire. I t
makes clear the motives and ideas underlying the struggle. Fast’s
novel came at a time when Israel, like the Maccabees in their
day, was struggling for the maintenance of its independence.
Now that Israel has gained world recognition for its independence
after having revived its State, the novel serves a significant pur-
pose: it stresses the validity, yes, even the urgency of combating
all forces in Jewry which tend toward assimilation and disintegra-
tion.
Seventeen stories, including a short novel, all of which treat
comprehendingly of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, before, during
and after the Nazi ascendancy are offered in the collection of
Tales of my people
by Sholem Asch, translated by Meyer Levin
(N. Y., Putnam’s, 1948). They depict a way of life in a vanished
era. Several of the stories give instances of the strength of Jewish
character and faith in the face of various horrors; the others are
set in Israel and in this country.
Though a novel,
Walk through the valley
, by Mrs. Zelda Popkin