Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

Basic HTML Version

partner in the firm of Covici, Friede which, however, did not meet
with the success it deserved. In his memoirs Mr. Friede looks
back on his activities with a great deal of quizzical pleasure. He
tells the story amiably and with a measure of cheer.
Heinrich Heine was one of the most vigorous and versatile of
German writers. He was a man in whose head, as Matthew
Arnold said long ago, “fermented all the ideas of modern Europe.”
His writings are as fresh today and with as contemporary a ring,
as they were during the first half of the nineteenth century. Ample
proof of this is found in
The poetry and prose of Heinrich Heine
selected and edited with an introduction by Frederic Ewen
(N.Y., Citadel, 1948). Here one may read Heine on the Bible, on
Jews and Judaism, on Christianity and antisemitism, on Moses
and the prophets, on Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn and on a
vast variety of other subjects. Louis Untermeyer insisted, with
a measure of correctness, that the essential truth about Heine
resides in the fact that he was “a Jewish Jew,” not “ that fictional
creature, an Hellenic Jew,” nor, “except in a geographical sense,
a French or a German Jew.” Even though, for purely practical
reasons, he had himself baptized into a religion that he really
despised, he avowed his inescapable
and clutched
his dark heritage to his bosom. I t is traces of this heritage that
the Rev. Dr. Israel Tabak endeavored to find in the writings of
Heine. He performed his task with diligence, skill and sound
learning. His
Judaic lore in Heine
, the heritage of a poet (Balti-
more, Johns Hopkins Press, 1948), represents a comprehensive
study of the elements of Jewish life and lore as reflected in the
prose and verse writings of the greatest of lyric poets in German
literature. The extent to which Jewish traditional teachings and
practices have so advantageously been explored by Heine and
permeated his writings has never before been as ably presented
as it has been in this work by Dr. Tabak.
, by Frangois
Fejto, translated from the French by Mervyn Savill (Denver,
University of Denver Press, 1949), is a biography of the poet
which concentrates less on his verse than on the events of his life
and the complexities and contradictions of his character — his
tortured romanticism, his pride in being a Jew and his strange,
disturbed relationship with Karl Marx and the revolutionaries
of 1848.
Within the last decade and a half, the reputation and influence
of Franz Kafka have been growing rapidly. New translations of
his writings are constantly appearing and endless discussion of
his worth goes on, often giving the impression that Kafka is being
wildly overrated. The effort is largely to appreciate Kafka not
so much as a poet but as a theologian. A veritable Kafka cult