Is there such a thing as Jewish fiction? We ask Pearl Abraham Andre Aciaman Joyce Antler Shalom Auslander Jim Bloom Geraldine Brooks Nathan Englander Herbert Gold Allegra Goodman Dara Horn Howard Jacobson Nadia Kalman Etgar Keret Walter Mosley Howard Norman Marge Mercy A.B. Yehoshua.
Introduction by Alan Cheuse Alan Cheuse (born January 23, 1940, Perth Amboy, New Jersey) is an American writer and critic. He graduated from Perth Amboy High School in 1957 and Rutgers University in 1961.
Let us start by asking: Is there such a creature as a Jewish writer? Jewish mothers gave birth to Saul Bellow Noun 1. Saul Bellow - United States author (born in Canada) whose novels influenced American literature after World War II (1915-2005)
Solomon Bellow, Bellow and Bernard Malamud Noun 1. Bernard Malamud - United States writer (1914-1986)
Malamud , but these idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. giants of mid-20th-century American fiction consistently suggested that they were not Jewish writers but rather Jews who wrote about American life in its many incarnations, sometimes focusing on Jewish characters and themes and motifs, sometimes not. Is Bellow's fabulous seeker of a character Henderson the Rain King Henderson the Rain King
character’s frustration shown by his continually saying, “I want, I want.” [Am. Lit.: Henderson the Rain King]
See : Frustration a Jew because his creator was horn Jewish? Or is he a Gentile character invented by a Jewish-born writer who finds in him a universal quality of cosmic questing? We don't have to look at Henderson's matrilineal mat·ri·lin·e·al
Relating to, based on, or tracing ancestral descent through the maternal line. connections to find him fascinating and important, do we?
And Malamud? Is he a Brooklyn writer? And when he writes a comic masterpiece about identity in the contemporary American West--A New Life--does he thus become a Western writer, or does he remain a Jewish-American Brooklynite writing about the West? This is all sociological fine-tuning and interesting to consider. But does it get us to the heart of a writer's work or merely keep our eyes on the surfaces? Malamud's finest work suggests that all of his characters are Jewish, even the Gentiles. If all Gentiles are Jews, does that make all Gentile writers Jewish writers? Does this play out for black American writers? Are James Baldwin's white characters in Giovanni's Room Giovanni's Room is a novel by James Baldwin first published in 1956. It is considered "groundbreaking" in that the novel featured gay central characters at a time when this was uncommon. and Another Country actually black characters under the skin?
The argument gets murky. Maybe Malamud is right. All men are Jews and all Gentiles are Jews, so all writers are Jewish writers. But I stand with Bellow's extraordinary character Augie March. To paraphrase the first line of that grand novel in which Augie appears, I am an American, Perth Amboy Perth Amboy (ăm`boi), city (1990 pop. 41,962), Middlesex co., NE N.J., with a harbor on Arthur Kill at the mouth of the Raritan River, which is crossed there to Staten Island, N.Y., by the Outerbridge Crossing (1928); settled 1683, inc. born ...
Yet if you look to the inventor of modern(ist) aesthetics in our language, she turns out to have been born Jewish. Gertrude Stein, that is. Her forceful surmise that all language is a plastic medium, to be shaped by the writer in the same way that a sculptor shapes materials, in the same way that a painter shapes light and form, deeply influenced Hemingway, for one, whose own influence on the future of American prose cannot be underestimated.
Hemingway a Jew?
Maybe logic doesn't have an important place in a discussion such as this. But as you'll read in these responses, history does, and so do geographical ties, family ties, soul and taste. I urge you to read the fascinating contributions to our symposium.
--Alan Cheuse, Fiction Editor
If there's no such thing as Jewish fiction, then what do you call Chaim Potok Rabbi Dr. Chaim Potok (February 17, 1929 - July 23, 2002) was an American author and rabbi. Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Poland. His parents, Benjamin Max (d. 1958) and Mollie (Friedman) Potok (d. 1985), gave him a Hebrew name, Chaim Tzvi. , Philip Roth Noun 1. Philip Roth - United States writer whose novels portray middle-class Jewish life (born in 1933)
Philip Milton Roth, Roth , Nathan Englander Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970 and graduated from Binghamton University. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Knopf in 2000. , Howard Jacobson Howard Jacobson (born 24 August, 1942 in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich), is a British author who has written comic novels involving Jewish characters. He was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. and the others in an almost endless list of circumcised guys for whom Jewish identity Jewish identity is the subjective state of perceiving oneself as as a Jew and as relating to being Jewish. Jewish identity, by this definition, does not depend on whether or not a person is regarded as a Jew by others, or by an external set of religious, or legal, or sociological , experience and often a certain insouciant in·sou·ci·ant
Marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant.
[French : in-, not (from Old French; see in-1) + souciant, present participle of soucier, style of Jewish humor are central? I'm thinking of the particular kind of novel where if you removed all the Jewish themes, references and preoccupations, you'd be left with a short story or maybe in some cases just a title page.
And isn't it arresting to consider that so few Jewish women novelists have picked over the same kind of material--the rich fruit of first-and second-generation Jewish immigrant life--in such an obsessive way? Allegra Al·leg·ra
A trademark for the drug fexofenadine hydrochloride.
Allegra, Telfast (UK)
Pharmacologic class: Peripherally selective piperidine, selective histamine Goodman's Kaaterskill Falls and Nicole Krauss's The History of Love are the closest things I can come up with without Googling, but neither writer seems as bound by or to a Jewish mice en scene as their male counterparts. Goodman's next novel Intuition, for example, though informed by what I would recognize as a Jewish moral sensibility as it probes the ethical limits of scientific research and includes a pretty funny seder scene, is not about Jewish life. Other Jewish women writers go outside the contemporary, domestic Jewish experience to write novels of the Holocaust or of biblical times.
And speaking of biblical: I do not think it is merely tendentious ten·den·tious also ten·den·cious
Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan: a tendentious account of the recent elections. to advance the Bible as the ne plus ultra Plus Ultra may refer to;
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times bestseller People of the Book.
Since the first great Jewish hero of the modern novel--Leopold Bloom--was conceived by a non-Jew, where does that leave the question of what is or isn't Jewish fiction? One answer is that there's no such thing; the other is that there's no other sort. I veer toward the second answer myself. A rabbi whose name escapes me once said all Western literature was commentary on the Torah. I'll buy that exaggeration, bearing in mind that exaggeration is both the breath of Jewish prayer and the bone and sinew sinew /sin·ew/ (sin´u) a tendon of a muscle.
weeping sinew an encysted ganglion, chiefly on the back of the hand, containing synovial fluid.
n. of the novel when it remembers what it's for.
Rabelais, the father of the novel, was steeped in Judeo-Christian cosmogony cos·mog·o·ny
n. pl. cos·mog·o·nies
1. The astrophysical study of the origin and evolution of the universe.
2. A specific theory or model of the origin and evolution of the universe. and argument, his work blasphemous blas·phe·mous
[Middle English blasfemous, from Late Latin blasph in just the way Yahweh feared art would be. Hence the Fourth Commandment. Write the world anew and no matter how reverential rev·er·en·tial
1. Expressing reverence; reverent.
2. Inspiring reverence.
rev your intentions, you are parodying God's creation. But by setting up in competition with the Torah, not only does literature proclaim its Jewishness, it also learns the power of story story as explanation, story as warning, story as revolt, story told for the sheer joy of telling it. Even Nietzsche acknowledged a narrative grandeur in the Old Testament that neither Greek nor Latin literature Latin literature, the literature of ancient Rome and of that written in Latin in later eras.
Very little remains of the ritualistic songs and the native poetry of the Romans and Latins before the rise of a literature. could rival. Without Job's complaint there would not be Portnoy's. Abraham contesting with God as to how many good men it will take to save Sodom--swapping numbers to avert annihilation--introduces the comedy of existentialism existentialism (ĕgzĭstĕn`shəlĭzəm, ĕksĭ–), any of several philosophic systems, all centered on the individual and his relationship to the universe or to God. and dialectic into literature. God's testing of Abraham teaches how to marshal terror to moral thought and confounds the expectation (still to be found in poor and therefore un-Jewish fiction) that goodness is sympathetic and life reasonable. Central to all these stories is dispute--a deep mistrust lodged in the very throat of belief--from which Jews derive that passion for disputatiousness that distinguishes their art.
To argue that comedy is the lifeblood of the novel and that its origins are divine is not contradictory. What animates Jewish comedy, in all its forms, is the conviction that life itself is anything but funny. Jews are funny because experience for them--both what they have lived through and what their literature teaches them--isn't. In the same way, whether or not God exists for them, argument with the divine, or some entity that serves as the divine (a psychoanalyst, a wife, the state) is inescapable. No Torah, no Kafka, no novel.
Howard Jacobson is a journalist and author who lives in England. In 2010 he was awarded the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question.
When we define a national literature like German literature or English literature English literature, literature written in English since c.1450 by the inhabitants of the British Isles; it was during the 15th cent. that the English language acquired much of its modern form. or French literature, we are basing our classification on language. Other people write in French and others write in English, and for those we add the ethnicity, but I would say that language is more important than ethnicity. Carver and Melville are both American writers, regardless of immense difference in their content or aesthetic--it is all American. Saul Bellow told me many times that first and foremost he was an American writer.
In terms of Jewish literature, it is also about language. Jewish languages, such as Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino, for me are the most important when defining Jewish literature. This may be provocative, but when an Arab writes in Hebrew, like Sayeed Kashua, he is participating in Jewish writing through the language. Kashua is part of Jewish literature because, by writing in Hebrew, he is utilizing the context of classical Jewish writing.
Can we define the writings of Jews in a European language as Jewish? Jews who write about Jewish matters or have Jewish protagonists can be classified as Jewish writing. However, when non Jews write about the same Jewish themes, I would not consider the result Jewish literature. Jews writing about non-Jewish topics is not classified as Jewish but it would be Jewish if it were written in a Jewish language. If a writer is Jewish--but not writing on Jewish subjects, the work is not Jewish literature. With all our desire to include Kafka as a writer of Jewish literature, in my mind he is not, although in his world there are symbols and metaphors that are taken from the Jewish heritage. Of course all these definitions are narrow and stupid, as there are many writers who are on the borders or margins of these worlds. But you asked for a definition, and this is my answer.
A.B. Yehoshua is an Israeli novelist, essayist and playwright. His novels include The Liberated Bride, A Woman in Jerusalem, and Friendly Fire: A Duet.
Jewish literature has traditionally been a commentary on the Torah, an ongoing dialogue or argument with the idea of an authority or a heritage that expects something specific of us. It's basically asking a question about the presence or absence of God, even in non-religious texts where this isn't the primary concern. Literature is always concerned with who's being judged and why; there's a moral impetus for every story. So to me it's not that interesting to talk about Jewish literature as a category where this book is in or that book is out. To me, what's more interesting is the language the writers are using, and what they're using the language for. Writers all draw on the archaeology of the language they are using, whether consciously or not.
It's only in non-Jewish languages that we're afraid of the Jewish label. In English, you're writing for a broad audience, and for that reason many authors are concerned with the label. But for hundreds of years, Jewish authors wrote in Jewish languages and could access certain assumptions about what their audiences knew and what phrases meant. I try to write in English as if English were a Jewish language. When I write novels in which the language is drawn from ancient Jewish texts, in the course of the story the references are subtly introduced.
Dara Horn received National Jewish Book awards for her novels, In the Image and The World to Come. Her most recent novel is All Other Nights.
I think that Jews like to think there is such a thing as Jewish fiction. And perhaps some Jews are happy to be writing Jewish fiction. I think it is all the same thing; it seems to be like a big "Now what?" Fiction is all about how can we get through this bullshit to laughter or understanding, and that to me is more important than the religion of the characters or whether it takes place in Monsey or Africa.
Shalom Auslander is the author of the memoir Foreskin's Lament. His debut novel, Hope: A Tragedy, was published in 2012.
Miss Watson’s runaway slave; Huck’s traveling companion. [Am. Lit.: Huckleberry Finn]
See : Escape BLOOM
The most scholarly answer to the question, "Is there such a thing as Jewish fiction?" is, "Yes, of course." It's in the Tanach, in the narrative portions of what Gentiles call "the Old Testament," though religious Jews will balk balk
the action of a horse when it refuses to obey a command to which it usually responds. See also jibbing. at hearing the noun "fiction" refer to God's word. More than half a century ago, Erich Auerbach pinpointed what distinguishes this kind of narrative by explaining that Bible stories--like all fiction that interests academics--demand to be interpreted. But these same academics, present company included, mean something entirely different when we teach novels and stories by Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Nathan Englander, or even by the novelist who most famously rejected the label "Jewish writer," Saul Bellow. The quintessential Jewish fiction is Grace Paley's deceptively slight story, "The Loudest Voice," the tale of .a would-be writer named Shirley Abramowitz (surely a child of Abraham, as Paley's bilingual wordplay intimates).
What academia and the literacy marketplace mean by "Jewish fiction" is subject to the identity politics that have proven irresistibly convenient to professors as well as to booksellers. Under these constraints Jewish fiction refers to works by writers whose narratives expressly call attention to their Jewish antecedents. This working definition often leads us to exclude works by writers such as Paul Auster and James Salter and sentences by some of the past century's most influential Jewish novelists--Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, Norman Mailer--who, unlike Esau, didn't even bother to price their birthrights--leaving them to a kind of mischling limbo.
Jim Bloom is a professor of English and director of American Studies at Muhlenberg College. He is the author of Gravity Fails: The Comic Jewish Shaping of Modern America.
There's the old point of view most popularly represented by Shalom Aleichem telling stories that bind together a historical concept of culture and humor and suffering through time. I think that never goes away, that there are always the old ways when the Jews lived in poverty and grace. And then you have the 20th-century American point of view, from people like Bernard Malamud and later, Philip Roth. Roth brings up an interesting notion, because while he maintains a sense of being Jewish, it is very much a cultural identity in a secular world. Even though this notion in itself might not be a rendition of assimilation, you can see through his work the powerful draw of the Other in transient Jewish life. Assimilation is almost like becoming the Other. And then it isn't. For one reason, the Other culture is never completely accepting. There's always a sense of the world which is so dominating--you can even go back to Shalom Aleichem for that--that there has to be a different point of view and a different way of thinking. And that different way of thinking makes Jewish literature world literature. As world literature it's sort of indomitable in·dom·i·ta·ble
Incapable of being overcome, subdued, or vanquished; unconquerable.
[Late Latin indomit . It's also unique. So there's a way of seeing the world as a traveler of sorts--not as a king, not as a vassal vassal: see feudalism. to the king, not as somebody who's anchored in one place--either a geographical place or a cultural place.
I'm part of that vast traveling notion. I'm certainly an African-American; there's no question about that. That's how the country I was born in defines me. Whether I accept that or not really doesn't matter; it's like being in prison--the door is locked and you can't get out. But at the same time, I have this extraordinary experience of being Jewish from my Eastern European relations, and that experience is like a second limb.
Some years ago, I heard Chinua Achebe tell a story that somewhere in Africa they have potters, and these potters make pots that you can use to cook over a flame with. These pots are usually used for inside cooking, but there's also cooking that's done outside. And for that outside cooking, the potters put the regular handle on the pot, but they also put one on the front because you have to be able to hold the pot steady. And that's what we do--we put a second handle on reality. It's true for Jews and for a lot of other people as well.
Walter Mosley is a novelist best known for his crime fiction, such as Devil in a Blue Dress Devil in a Blue Dress is a 1990 hardboiled mystery novel by Walter Mosley, the first of his mystery novels featuring Easy Rawlins, a black private detective in post-World War II Southern California. . His pair of novellas, The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin, will be published this May.
Halfway through the semester in my Women in Literature course, we pause to ask whether only work written by women qualifies as women's literature. We read Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, a rural Southern story in which the dead mother continues to control her family from her coffin. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , she drives the novel, she's its main character, even speaks for one chapter. The category of Jewish fiction raises similar questions: Does it have to be by a Jewish writer? And does fiction written with a Jewish sensibility, though not necessarily peopled by Jewish characters, qualify? I can think of Jewish writers who were scorned because they didn't write what Jewish readers considered Jewish enough, who were later embraced when they did.
In our century, Jewish culture is largely a Jewish concern. Asian, Indian and, more recently, Arab literatures have displaced mainstream interest in Jewish fiction. Returning to the question of category, then: It only really matters if it matters to you. In other words, this is an individual decision that you answer for yourself. Is it important to you that the story be a Jewish one, or that the writer is Jewish? These are extra-or sub-literary concerns that have nothing to do with the quality of the work, the originality of the voice, the lyricism lyr·i·cism
a. The character or quality of subjectivity and sensuality of expression, especially in the arts.
b. The quality or state of being melodious; melodiousness.
2. of its prose, whether the novel engages with the world and does something new with form, the values by which fine literature is measured.
Pearl Abraham is the author of the international bestseller The Romance Reader. Her most recent book is American Taliban.
The early-20th-century noir stories, featuring the character Benya Krik and his coterie of thugs, smugglers and shakedown artists working the streets of Odessa, were written by Isaac Babel Babel (bā`bəl) [Heb.,=confused], in the Bible, place where Noah's descendants (who spoke one language) tried to build a tower reaching up to heaven to make a name for themselves. . (Was Babel murdered for being a Jew or a writer? Both; to Stalin he was a double anathema.) I love these stories for their inventiveness of criminal incident and for the poetic compression of Babel's prose. Such a beautiful writer. The tales of Benya Krik were written by one of the greatest of Jewish writers about a Jewish gangster, and to my mind every one of their vivid dialogues, ethical conundrums, the uncanny humor throughout, and even the pervasive sense of what Chekhov called "abject melancholy" seems verifiably born of Jewish experience, Jewish sensibility, Jewish suffering, Jewish soul--in other words, Babel's is Jewish fiction.
As vigilant as I remain toward literary categorization, I am still quite aware that certain writers have passionately felt the need to offer a strict definition of Jewish fiction--or what makes a Jewish writer--even going so far as to list criteria that would qualify a story or novel as such. My concern is that such a manifesto might stifle a kind of Talmudic open-mindedness in the dialogue about the ways in which the ancient tradition of Jews writing books continues to evolve. I would be loath to embrace any line of thought that draws precariously near to suggesting that a Jewish writer feel obligated to tailor his or her narrative to antecedent ANTECEDENT. Something that goes before. In the construction of laws, agreements, and the like, reference is always to be made to the last antecedent; ad proximun antecedens fiat relatio. plot lines, for instance, or feel that it is mandatory to write about iconic events on the Jewish historical calendar that have, through the ages, become justifiably indispensable in partly defining Jewish identity.
On the most personal level, I would have to say that Jewish fiction is fiction written by Jews, and that is it. You open a book and begin to read. And in reading, you should perhaps first and foremost exactingly judge the quality of the fiction--whether it has music, knowledge, originality and gravitas--and not subscribe to its importance or even its basic vitality based solely on the fact that the story it is telling illustrates cultural or theosophical the·os·o·phy
n. pl. the·os·o·phies
1. Religious philosophy or speculation about the nature of the soul based on mystical insight into the nature of God.
2. provenance, but rather to what extent it dignifies those two things. To quote the Jewish-Russian poet Joseph Brodsky: "My only responsibility is to write well." Howard Norman is an author whose novels include Northern Lights, The Bird Artist and most recently, What Is Left the Daughter.
It's not like everybody who was circumcised necessarily writes Jewish fiction, but there are sonic elements that you can often find in Jewish writing but that are rare when it comes to Israeli writing. What I feel is very deeply Jewish is reflexiveness. Traditionally, the diaspora Jew always carries two identities: his national identity and his Jewish identity. This has allowed him always to be both an insider and an outsider; if he was American he could live his life as an American but could always use the other Jewish tier to look at his actions and the people around him from the outside. In that sense, I think the most "Jewish writer" active now in Israel is Sayeed Kashua, who is an Israeli Arab, because as an Israeli Arab he keeps this kind of two-tier thinking tradition, having both the Israeli national identity and this other identity of being an Arab.
A lot of Jewish writing has to do with searching for your own identity or naming your identity. The biggest influence on my writing is from diaspora American writers, and it's really difficult to talk about the work of most of them without coining to deal with identity issues. There is something very elusive in the Jewish identity, especially if you're a secular Jew. The question, "What does it mean to be Jewish if you are not a believer?" seems to be in the background of many Jewish writers. As somebody who's very much obsessed with issues of identity, I feel in that sense much closer to the Jewish tradition than to the Israeli one.
A third element that I associate with Jewish thinking and writing is doubt. If you look at the heroes of the New Testament, the most dominant trait dominant trait
An inherited character determined by a dominant gene. Also called dominant character.
Dominant trait is submission, while with the Jewish biblical heroes the most dominant trait is always doubting. Our heroes have always argued with anybody and challenged views, even if the argument had to be carried out with God. It could be Abraham trying to build an argument to save Sodom and Gomorrah Sodom and Gomorrah
Legendary cities of ancient Palestine. According to the Old Testament book of Genesis, the notorious cities were destroyed by “brimstone and fire” because of their wickedness. , or Jonah trying to escape his fate as a prophet. Our legacy is never to take anything for granted. If you just look at the way of Jewish studying, which is hevruta--in a couple--it's basically studying through arguing about the text, not by memorizing it or automatically accepting an existing interpretation. I think that this kind of doubting is something that's in the cultural Jewish DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. .
Etgar Kern is an Israeli author and screenwriter for film and television. His story collections include The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and, recently, Suddenly, a Knock at the Door.
There is a stereotypical, almost cliched cli·chéd also cliched
Having become stale or commonplace through overuse; hackneyed: "In the States, it might seem a little clichéd; in Paris, it seems fresh and original" vision of American Jewish fiction. It's a Woody Allen neurotic, jittery, obsessive type of writing, usually from the male perspective. In American Jewish fiction, masculinity is always desired but called into question; the mother is always worshipped but just as frequently resented. Self-parody and armchair psychology go hand in hand, and the wistful longing to be anything but Jewish usually ends up finding comfort in age-old pieties about Jewishness. Outside of America, Jewish writers are different. Primo Levi spoke not of Jewish books but of Dante. The Triestine author Italo Svevo, a friend of James Joyce, was fundamentally Italian, but like Woody Allen, he was heavily interested in Freud and yet clearly was writing under the influence of modern French novelists. You would never know that his principal characters were Jewish. Marcel Proust is simply not a Jewish writer, even if he had a Jewish mother. I may not be writing in a Jewish-American tradition, but I do play with identity, and playing with identities and double allegiance is, in my view, the fundamentally Jewish obsession, because it raises the one question that inhabits all Jewish writing: the question not of masculinity or of neurosis neurosis, in psychiatry, a broad category of psychological disturbance, encompassing various mild forms of mental disorder. Until fairly recently, the term neurosis was broadly employed in contrast with psychosis, which denoted much more severe, debilitating mental , but of loyalty. If I am not loyal to my own people, whom will I be loyal to? If I am not honest with myself, whom am I honest with? Try answering this without jitters.
Andre Aciman is the author of among other works, Out of Egypt: A Memoir and Eight White Nights.
JOYCE ANTLER antler: see horn.
Irving Howe once said there could be no Jewish fiction in America because the cultural conditions that made American Jews distinctive were disappearing. Jews were becoming like cveryone else. His prophecy was wrong. As each new generation of American Jewish writers conies to the fore, Jewish themes and questions change, but they emerge and are connected. Immigrant authors like Anzia Yezierska and Henry Roth were concerned with the breakdown of traditional life and how to become Americans in a new land. They knew firsthand what it meant to live in the old country, and their fiction attested to the strains of bridging both worlds. Next came Roth, Bellow bellow
one of the voices of cattle. Usually refers to the arrogant call of the bull used to announce territorial rights. Abnormalities of the voice include hoarseness as in rabies, or continuous repetition as in nervous acetonemia. See also low, moo. , Malamud, whose struggles were to live in an America where Jews were doing well enough--but what did it mean to be part of a newly modern, well-off main-stream? Ozick and Paley offered fresh takes on living in an American diaspora as they probed Judaic and Yiddishkeit inheritances. Now you have a whole set of new questions focusing on memory, legacy and belonging (with special attendon to gender and sexuality as well as religious issues).
Looking at the contemporary landscape, I conclude that Jewish fiction in America is alive and well--indeed, quite robust. Although Jews into the fourth generation are now fully embedded in American culture, politics and society; they have never been more diverse in terms of their own ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. I'd predict that into the future, with Israel standing as a deeply divisive issue and with questions of Jewish belonging in a multicultural, intra-ethnic society remaining acute, American Jewish writers will continue to struggle with the legacy of who they are and how they relate to each other and the larger world. They will continue to question, and to offer us new, vibrant perspectives that grow out of their own divergent experiences.
Joyce Antler is professor of Jewish history and culture at Brandeis University and author of You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother.
Not all fiction written by Jewish writers should be called Jewish fiction. I myself write novels, such as the one just finished, in which there are no Jewish characters or people identified as such. The novels that I would consider Jewish fiction are those that have Jewish content--novels that deal with the lives of Jews as Jews, whether cultural or religious, and matters that pertain to that, or that have themes that pertain to the Jewish religion, such as the Golem novels or the dybbuk dybbuk
In Jewish folklore, a disembodied human spirit that must wander restlessly, burdened by former sins, until it inhabits the body of a living person. Belief in such spirits was common in eastern Europe in the 16th–17th century. which deal with folklore. My own work, Gone to Soldiers, which deals with the Jewish resistance during World War II Resistance during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. , is a Jewish novel.
Marge Piercy is an author and poet whose works include the novel Gone to Soldiers and the poetry collection My Mother's Body.
Something that can be called Jewish fiction exists as a particular constellation, although the defining elements can be found in the work of other ethnic or regional writers--that is, all writers. A wary kvelling (a word William Faulkner would not employ), a suspicious celebration, a. defensive assertiveness are the particulars that, for me, make the writers who deal with Jewish themes worth putting in a somewhat special category for readers. (Let's leave out of consideration the chicken soup chicken soup Chicken broth Folk medicine Jewish penicillin A fowl broth with a long tradition as a home remedy for URIs, which may be a nasal decongestant, inhibit growth of pneumococci in vitro, and stimulate immune responsiveness in WBCs Mainstream medicine A romantics.)
All writers of whatever origins must both deeply love and deeply fret about their lives. Jewish writers have a singular history to explore, rich in different ways from the singular history of others--a history and presence that inevitably alters and requires new stories as time moves forward, and then new stories again. Jewish writers seem to know, even if they don't know that they know, that the only heaven is on earth. This goes for hell, too. 'Whether or not they are pious, it an understanding inherited from Jewish belief. It offers a special desperation and comedy, and it requires its special acuteness concerning the pangs of love and foreknowledge fore·knowl·edge
Knowledge or awareness of something before its existence or occurrence; prescience.
knowledge of something before it actually happens
Noun 1. of mortality.
Okay, "Jewish fiction" doesn't exist in a privileged ghetto. An argument might be made that all good writers are Jewish, even without the particulars of religion, prejudice, history and the need to present our presence. And not-good Jewish writers, what are they? They are in the generous category of not-good along with all the other not-goods.
Herbert Gold is author of Fathers and, most recently, Still Alive: A Temporary Condition, reprinted as Not Dead Yet.
That's always a huge question, and I think I have finally figured out the answer or at least a less complicated than the usual nine-hour answer that sounds semi-defensive but is just passionate about the whole idea. It's a complicated thing; its not genre fiction, it's not "other" in any way. The idea that someone else would read it and that it would be incomprehensible or inaccessible or even less valid is the problem.
It's the way fiction works. I grew up in this Jewish world; I knew only Jews. I live in New York. When I didn't live in New York, I lived in Jerusalem. So of course when I look out of my eyes at my own world, this is what emerges. I love the Russians, I love British authors, I love dead authors. I'm not dead. How do I somehow connect with so many dead authors? Well, it's that their books work across time and space, and that for me is the qualifying factor. The Jewish part is central to the stories, and I expect and hope that for Jewish readers there will be these special things they recognize.
The idea behind the question is in the element of otherness and people taking ownership of what the idea is to be American. I am 100 percent American and 100 percent an American author. I also happen to be a Jewish author, a male author; I turned 42 this week, so last week I was a 41-year-old author--meaning these things can be fluid. If I convert next week and tell you I'm Bahai, then I'm a Bahai author. Everyone's world is specific to their experience, and I think the question they are asking really is how has living in the world influenced and sparked your creativity. But when you are Jewish it ends up being, "You ate more bagels than me, how did that make you a writer?" The reality is you could replace Jewish with East Coast or New York my friends in New York--who aren't Jewish are way more "Jewish" than a lot of people who identify as Jews in other places that I've been. Because to me it is deeply cultural. It is as much eating dim sum as matzoh brei.
Nathan Englander is the author of the stool collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, as well as the novel The Ministry of Special Cases.
I define Jewish fiction as fiction about Jewish people or ideas. I don't define Jewish fiction by the author. Therefore, one of my favorite works of Jewish fiction is George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. Because I don't define Jewish fiction by the author, I think that Jewish authors are free to write any kind of fiction they like. In other words, I don't think that fiction by a Jewish author is necessarily Jewish. Artists should feel free to work with the material that inspires them. I've been inspired by the American Jewish community in all of its diversity. I've also been inspired by rare-book dealers, young entrepreneurs, scientists working in laboratories, environmental activists. Like many Jewish writers, I read widely, observe, question, experiment and enjoy more than one muse.
Allegro Goodman is a novelist whose books include Kaaterskill Falls, a National Book Award finalist, and, most recently, The Cookbook Collector.
The first answer that comes to mind is, "Ever heard of the Bible?" but that's just facetious. There are two kinds of fiction written by people who find themselves oppressed or outside of the mainstream culture. One has to do with an empathic em·path·ic
Of, relating to, or characterized by empathy.
Adj. 1. empathic - showing empathy or ready comprehension of others' states; "a sensitive and empathetic school counselor"
empathetic attempt to reach out, imaginatively, to other groups that are oppressed. In Judaism we have the injunction, "Remember, you were slaves in the land of Egypt." I can think of a couple of examples: Abel Meeropol writing Strange Fruit, Osip Mandelshtam writing about the oppression of peasants, Alexander Galich writing about women in labor camps. The second kind of Jewish fiction is more analytical and related to survival. It has to do with trying to understand whoever's oppressing us, and it ranges from all the different stories that Jewish men in Russia told in order to get out of being conscripted into the army to the Communist Manifesto. Jews in America today aren't an oppressed group, and instead of reaching out to oppressed people, writers are now reaching back to times when Jews were suffering more. This may speak to a crisis in Jewish American fiction, or maybe it just represents a different direction in which we're figuring out how to tell stories now that we're in a position of relative equality.
Nadia Kalman's debut novel is The Cosmopolitans, which won Moment's emerging writer award in 2010 and was a finalist for the Rohr Prize in Jewish literature.
RELATED ARTICLE: GRACE PALEY (1922-2007)
"Is what we nowadays call 'the Jewish. American novel' likely to be a Jewish book? I think not; indeed, I hope not. If a novel's salient aim is virtue, I want to throw it against the wall. To be a Jew is to be a good citizen, to be responsible, to be charitable, to respond to society's needs. To be a novelist is to be the opposite--to seize unrestraint and freedom, even demonic freedom, imagination with its reins cut loose. The term 'Jewish writer' ought to be an oxymoron. That may be why novelists born Jewish, yet drawn wholly to the wild side--Norman Mailer, for instance--are not altogether wrong when they decline to be counted among Jewish writers."
RELATED ARTICLE: ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER (1902-1991)
"To me there are only Yid dish writers, Hebrew writers, English writers, Spanish writers. The whole idea of a Jewish writer, or a Catholic writer, is kind of far-fetched to me. But if you forced me to admit that there is such a thing as a Jewish writer, I would say that he would have to be a man really Immersed in Jewishriess, who knows Hebrew, Yiddish, the Talmud, the Midrash, the Hasidic literature, the Kabbalah kabbalah or cabala (both: kăb`ələ) [Heb.,=reception], esoteric system of interpretation of the Scriptures based upon a tradition claimed to have been handed down orally from Abraham. , and so forth. And then if in audition he writes about Jews and a Jewish life, perhaps then can call him a Jewish writer, whatever language he writes Of course, we can also call rn 29 just a writer."
RELATED ARTICLE: SAUL BELLOW (1915-2005)
"I was quoted in the papers as saying that I was an American writer and a Jew. Perhaps I should have said that I was a Jew and an American writer ... I allow myself to add that the question reminds me of the nc small children used to be asked by clumsy Sunday visitors in olden old·en
Of, relating to, or belonging to time long past; old or ancient: olden days.
[Middle English : old, old; see old + -en, adj. times: 'Whom do you love better, your Papa or your Momma?' I recognized that I answered the reporters unthinkingly, 'writer first, Jew second!'"
Interview by Jarah Breger, Alan Cheuse, Nadine Epstein, Gaitlin Yoshiko Kandil and Jala Levin