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Di Amerikaner Geboren: Transformations of Yiddishkeyt in Jewish American Fiction BY LA NE SILBERSTEIN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of A rts Under the sponsorship of Dr. A ndrea Dimino Sarasota, Florida May, 2010
Silberstein !! Table of Contents Dedication iii A cknowledgments iv A bstract v Introduction: Living in the Past, Present and Future 1 One: Completing Men: Tikkun in the Work of Isaac Bashevis Singer 2 8 Two: Contrasting Jews: Cynthia Ozicks Envy; or, Y iddish in A merica 45 Conclusion: Meeting A merican De mands: a Look at Saul Bellow 61 Bibliography 71
Silberstein !!! Dedication Written in hopes that these primary texts will not be, in the words of Cynthia Ozicks Edelshtein, "a museum," but living documents, an evolving liturgy of their own, as I have tried to show. Letter by melting letter the lead, Liquefied bullets, gleamed with thou ghts; A verse from Babylon, a verse from Poland, Seething, flowing into one mold. Now must Jewish grit, long concealed in words, Detonate the world in a shot! Who in V ilna Ghetto has beheld the hands Of Jewish heroes clasping weapons Has beheld Jer usalem in its throes, The crumbling of those granite walls; Grasping the words smelted into lead, Conning their sounds by heart. A vram Sutzkever, The Lead Plates at the Rom Press
Silberstein !" A cknowledgments Many were integral to the completion of this thesis. First and foremost would be Professor A ndrea Dimino, who pored over hundreds of pages. My committee of Professors David Schatz, Susan Marks and Dana Inouye are also deserving of much thanks for both reading this and creating excellent classes. To my roo mmates Chris Mangels, Gracelena Ignacio and Isobel A itken: thank you for putting up with me. Id like to thank my therapists, physical or otherwise: Gail, Patricia and Carolyn, and Dr. Nalluri for operating on my hand at three a.m I am indebted to Chris Borglum for instilling in me some semblance of a work ethic and a love for literature. My parents, too, are awesome for supporting me in studying something whose rewards will not be realized in fiscal terms. Finally, to meine Liebe, Jillian Horowitz: th ank you for giving me a wonderful past and a better future not to mention help with editing.
Silberstein A bstract Just as the Talmud, or Biblical exegesis, reaches back to its origins the Torah so too must writers of Jewish fiction evoke their lite rary predecessors. Hence the contemporary author Cynthia Ozick chooses to recreate the Nobel prize laureate of 1978, Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902 1991), in her story "Envy; or, Y iddish in A merica" (1969). Singer himself returns to the past and the shtetl life in his novel The Slave (1969), and his story "Y entl the Y eshiva Boy" (1962), yet he also writes about contemporary New Y ork in Enemies, a Love Story (1972). These two temporal realms help to form Singer's literary voice. Just as Singer melds time, h is characters attempt to fuse as well: in chapter one I utilize the Kabbalistic term tikkun to elucidate how this combination happens. Edelshtein of Ozick's "Envy," however, forms his identity via contrasts with others, both fictional and historical, sinc e he is clearly the incarnation of the real life poet Jacob Glatstein. Edelshtein feuds with the successful writer Ostrover, the fictional representation of Isaac Singer, and the young who embrace English and pose a threat to Y iddish's posterity. I exami ne one of Ozick's essays to consider what might happen to Jewish A merican voices in the future, and ask whether or not English can foster Jewish literary identity. This question is answered in the figure of Saul Bellow, a Jewish giant of English language writing, who synthesizes A merican and Jewish cultures. A ndrea Dimino Division of Humanities
Silberstein # INTRODUCTION "I will live in the past, the present, and the future! I will live in the past, the present, and the future!" Scrooge cried again and again. I am here tonight because my friends, the ones who really care about Y iddish, couldnt make it. Do you know where my friends are tonight? Theyre toyt, geshtorbn, nayn eylen in drerd (dead, deceased, nine cubits under the ground)! Im here tonight to do the work they can no longer do themselves (A aron Lansky 81). A little over a year ago, my father gave me the above book, A aron Lanskys Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books (2004) which I only read upon nearing completion of this thesis. A kin to giving me this book, a process of historical, religious and cultural heritage exchange, is the symbolic act of passing the Torah Scroll from grandparent to parent to child during a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, which my father and I did almost ten years ago. This same passing on of culture and history, though via literary tradition, binds the two foci of this thesis: Cynthia Ozick and Isaac Bashevis Singer, her predecessor. In Lansky's book the words about dead friends in the quote above are uttered by an old man, who, having been recruited by the author in his quest to save a language, reveals his emotions, his tsuris, or sorrows, and his seykhl or resolve he, though elderly, is devoted to Lanskys cause: not allowing Y iddish, like his friends, to leave this world. To study Jewish books and literature is to study Jewish history; to save Jewish books is to prevent another Holocaust. Studying Jewish literature allows for the posterity of Judaism and the Jewish people. This introduction gives important background for the thesis about modern Jewish identity concerning the use of Jewish languages, as the two are inherently bound.
Silberstein $ A Jewish comedian, for whom Y iddish was an integral, formativ e aspect of his life, predicts that Y iddish will be used in the future for only academic purposes. Jackie Mason foresaw academics sitting around, debating about the once great jargon of the Jews, and, in his book How to Talk Jewish, he drew parallels to L atin's extinction. He thinks Y iddish will die, too it will never spoken, only spoken about. Y iddish might become what it is for one of the sad protagonists explored here, Cynthia Ozick's Hershel Edelshtein, a museum. In my experiences studying Jewish li terature, and in a life detached from my immigrant ancestors, Y iddish has been an artifact; but writing this thesis shows my attempt to reconnect with that lost past. For the longest time, when I was just a kleine yid (small Jew), I did not know that Y iddi sh was a real language. I thought it was a smattering of words, coded phrases. I thought that only old people spoke Y iddish, which might have been and still mostly is true. It was the secret code of zaydes and bubbes, grandpas and grandmas. It is dif ficult to predict whether or not Jews will speak Y iddish in the future, or will even feel attached to it. Cynthia Ozick, on whose work I focus in chapter two, complains about her inability to express herself fully in English and wishes for something more substantial to express her Jewishness A ccording to her, English is a gentile language and our speaking it is a product of colonialism: Still, though English is my everything, now and then I feel cramped by it. I have come to it with notions it is too p arochial to recognize. A language, like a people has a history of ideas; but not all ideas; only those known to its experience. Not surprisingly, English is a Christian language. When I write in English, I live in Christendom. ( Bloodshed 9)
Silberstein % Ozick feel s the need to write in English because she lives in a predominately non Jewish nation, and Miriam Sivan says Ozick positions herself as an A merican born writer who feels at home with Enlightenment thought and aesthetics. For Ozick, comfort with Western Christian society is the landscape of the third [ i. e. her] generation (2). Ideally, one can assume, she would like not only to express herself in Y iddish, but to also have other Jews read her work in one of their native tongues. That Ozick needs to wri te in English is a strange conclusion, considering that she has translated many stories and poems from Y iddish into English, a language she does not consider totally Jewish. But, as will be explained later, this is not a wholly negative thing, and the def inition as to what makes a tongue Jewish is quite mutable. Though ironic that English is Ozicks everything, it is not surprising when she injects Y iddish words into her English prose. Personal, sentimental reasons for learning Y iddis h, although Ozick (and probably many others) cherish them, are not enough. Isaac Babel translated poems and stories into and out of Y iddish for his own enjoyment, until the NKV D (The People's Commissariat for Internal A ffairs) broke his door down. Grante d, he was probably scared to openly express himself in a Jewish tongue during that troubled era though his Russian voice was an adequate Jewish one, but it was not as overt as a Y iddish one. Though never released, Babels translations of Sholom A leichem s how that he was communing with the Jewish past. Babel, like Ozick with English, attempted to modify Russian into a Jewish voice. It didnt matter, though: that devil Stalin, a repeat of Hitler, killed not only Babel, but Osip Mandelstam, too, and forced Joseph Brodsky and Y evgeny Zamyatin into exile. A nd those were only the Russian language writers of
Silberstein & Jewish heritage one night marks the death of Y iddish in Russia: A ugust 12, 1952, the Night of the Murdered Poets, which Edelshtein mourns in Ozick's "Envy ." Cynthia Ozick yearns for another time when Y iddish expression will be necessary, so other Jews may completely understand her, and thereby perpetuate Jewish culture. She writes optimistically of a New Y iddish [that] will be the language of multitude s of Jews: spoken to Jews by Jews, written by Jews for Jews (A & A 174). The language I used to think was an enigma could truly be a Jewish code, rendered into a new incarnation. Ozick wants total comprehension achieved through an indigenous language as in the past. Perhaps channeling this same thought, Lansky writes that Y iddish is a language where every word, every linguistic tic, is a reminder of peoplehood (12, 13). Jews have used Y iddish more than nearly any other language to build a firm literar y identity, which has lead or contributed to their identity as a people. Michael Wex, in his book Born to Kvetch (2005), connects the identity inherent in Y iddish to Stalin's purges: Stalin's suspicions were correct: a Y iddish speaking communist had le ss in common with a non Jewish commissar than with a Y iddish speaking rabbi... Stalin or his advisers from the Y evsektsiye, the Jewish Section grasped the all important notion that people who are fluent in Y iddish are fluent in Jewish culture: cultural k nowledge, cultural literacy, is essential because Y iddish is the language of a self defined culture group, and not of a geographic location To be ignorant of yidishkayt traditional Jewish culture in the broadest sense is to have no reason to speak Y idd ish, no way to understand it properly. Which is why Stalin tried to exterminate
Silberstein secular Y iddish culture along with Jewish religious practice [i.e. Hebrew as well]... (60, emphases mine) Simply: posterity is at stake. If Ozick, or Babel, cannot write in a Jewish tongue, Jewish tongues will not continue to exist. If they cannot exist for individuals, they cannot exist for the whole. Furthermore, Stalins need to execute Mandelstam and Babel, despite being published primarily in Russian, shows that their J ewish voices were heretical enough to warrant silencing. A fter all, why would literary giants, and the most famous Y iddish writers of all time, like Sholom A leichem, A bramovitsh (Mendele Moykher Sforim) and I. B. Singer revert back to Y iddish after at tempts in Hebrew or Russian? One answer is the lack of an audience. A nother is the inability to emote through fiction combined with denial of innate feelings, history or spirit. Something has been denied me, they might think if not writing in Y iddish, their choice for a Jewish tongue. Mendele said, "my soul desired only Y iddish, and I dedicated myself entirely to it" (Mendes Flohr 404); Sholom A leichem died while writing the Motl series, one of his famous Y iddish story collections a dedication akin to that of Mandelstam and Babel. The Romanian born poet Paul Celan embraced German, and made an inspiring claim that there is nothing wrong with a Jew emoting in the same languages the Nazis did. It is productive to contrast Celan with Moses Mendelssoh n, the epitome of assimilation (Heinrich Heine, and his Christian conversion, being an even more extreme example) who also championed German. How close did Mendelssohn and Heine feel to the mammeloshn, Y iddish? Perhaps Y iddish and Hebrew were relegated a nd isolated to the home and shul, respectively. Perhaps they did not even know Y iddish at all. Did
Silberstein ( Kafkas maxim not ring true, and did neither Mendelssohn nor Heine understand far more Y iddish than they think (Karlen iix)? Lansky reports on the subject citing Mendelssohns opinion of Y iddish: a wild and barbarous tongue that contributes not a little to the impropriety of the common Jew (265). Mendelssohns remarks are not so different from those anti Semitic utterances of Henry James or Richard Wagn er and their distaste for Jewish speech. Wagner similarly said: "the Jew... is innately incapable of announcing himself to us artistically through either his outward appearance or his speech," while Henry James commented on the perversions the Israelite i mmigrants brought to the English language (Mendes Flohr 329; Chametzky, et al., 109). A nd, as we know from a G.E. Lessing play, aptly titled The Jews that was written at the behest of Mendelssohn in 1749, all Jews are perfect mentsches upstanding citize ns! Not to mention overly assimilated, as Lessing's characters pass for gentiles, as is their intent, and are devoid of Jewish cultural knowledge. It is further condescending that a goy has to write the play, and essentially "speak for the Jews" while doi ng so in ''pure'' German which has not been adulterated by Y iddish (coincidentally enough, there were Eastern European Jews who called for the adoption of "pure" Russian). But Paul Celan, in merely writing about the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective, an d for filling his poems with Jewish references, still modifies German into a Jewish language. In his famous poem, Death Fugue, Celan writes, "dein goldenes haar Margarete/ dein aschenes haar Sulamith" which sets up a German/ Jewish binary by utilizing cla ssic names, i. e. the Biblical Shulamith, whose dark Jewish hair contrasts with stereotypical physical traits of the Germans (18 19). This same gentile/ Jew binary, and attempts at fusing it, is explored in many of Isaac Singers works. Nelly Sachs, anoth er German language poet and Nobel laureate in 1966
Silberstein ) who barely skirted the concentration camps, did the same. I may seem to be championing Y iddish, and to an extent this is true; but what I am really advocating, with Y iddish being a perfect example, is a J ewish voice. Jews will always emote in the language they see fit, but Mendelssohns decree, espoused via Lessings didactic play, to fully assimilate and quash Y iddish is nigh blasphemy. Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, Isaac Babel and Cynthia Ozick have shown t hat a Jew does not have to speak Y iddish to adequately emote, but can turn a gentile tongue into a Jewish one. A s I continue, I will show how this can be done, and indeed has been done, with English. If one wishes to discuss the Jews and their literature, one must also speak of their languages. The scholar Ilan Stavans notes that "polyglotism is a birthmark in the modern Jewish literary tradition" and asks, "how to make this facet of Jewish life, the need and ability to acquire a whole gamut of tongues, a core theme? '' (4). The scholar Hana Wirth Nesher, distinguished for her work on Henry Roth, appropriately speaks of the bilingual, or even trilingual, nature of the Jews (religious language, vernacular tongue, and new ones due to immigration), and especially its manifestation in Call It Sleep (1934) Henry Roths famous modernist novel. Her observations, though, lend themselves to Jewish literature as a whole. Jewish literature, down to the individual novel, presents a gamut of tongues. Immigration to A merica, Wirth Nesher points out, completes the triumvirate of languages for Jewish newcomers. In Roths novel, the Hebrew of David's cheder, or schoolhouse, and the Y iddish of his family's apartment, meet English, the language of the stre ets. Because of the convergence of multiple tongues, Call It Sleep is a hallmark of
Silberstein Modernist fiction; the novel presents a prime example of Stavanss polyglotism, and social, economic and historical verisimilitude. A nother apt term for describing Jewi sh literature is Mikhail Bakhtins heteroglossic. 1 In Call it Sleep, one can see rupture between the generations, as the protagonist's mother cannot speak a word of English. David's mama, Genya, retains a stronger connection to their homeland, Galicia, b ecause she does not assimilate; she does not learn English. Call it Sleep s example of polyglotism is inherent to Jewish culture, and the novel stands as a representation of Jewish tongues in their new setting of The Golden Land: A merica. Written in Engl ish, it also conveys Y iddish inflected speech; though written in a gentile language, the novel speaks with a Jewish voice. The accents of the transnational characters that Henry Roth limns also serve as an example of English being the de facto symbol of A merica, yet these accents still enable the characters to retain a (quirky) sense of identity. A fter all, the Statue of Liberty, given the ability to speak in Emma Lazaruss famous poem, asks immigrants to Keep, ancient lands, [and] your storied pomp The Italian A mericans in Call It Sleep speak English differently from the Polish A mericans and the Jewish A mericans. The accents are identifiable to readers (that is, Roth's contemporary readers would have recognized them easily), and are therefore re alistic. The residents of the Lower East Side really spoke like ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 1 Bakhtin's requirements for considering a novel "heteroglossic" include: The internal stratification of any single national language into social dialects, characteristic group behavior, professional jar gons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of the authorities, of various circles and of passing fashions...this internal stratification present in every language at any given moment of its historical existence is the indispensible prerequisite (1192).
Silberstein this; Roth and his protagonist David really heard this. A nd, for the reader, these dialects create an encapsulating environment. It also allows for characters and individuals to retain a se nse of ethnic, religious or any kind of cultural identity by modifying English. This gulf between generations due to a disconnect in language repeats itself in many works of Jewish, more specifically Jewish A merican, literature. Henry Roth 's Call It Sleep was written in 1934 and set in the early 1900s. Philip Roths Pulitzer Prize winning novel, American Pastoral (1997) is set during the late sixties and early seventies, and is a contemporary example of a generational divide exposed via la nguage. Though the characters no longer deal with immigrant strife and the adoption of entirely new tongues, the younger generations rhe toric still comes as an affront. Roths novel explores the changes that befall Jewish generations long after immigrat ion. Swede Levov, the protagonist, has a daughter, Merry. Merry has a stutter, a mark of her discomfort with the A merican lifestyle, which contrasts with her fathers achievement of the A merican Dream. The generations shift from precari ously positioned transnational immigrants to their ensconced, comfortable children and grandchildren. This novel is particularly appropriate for Roth, who is coming from a comfortable position in A merica as the grandchild of immigrants. The Levovs are so comfortable in A merica, that their daughter's name evokes Christmas tidings a strange name for a Jew. Furthermore, upon her conversion to Jainism and detachment from material wealth, Merry is finally able to conquer her stutter. Is this severance of he r Jewish past what enables clear enunciation? In Philip Roth's novel, one also sees a dichotomy between the younger, more vernacular language and an older dialect. For Swede's daughter, the difference is rooted in an
Silberstein #emphasis on tone and political rhetor ic (since the setting is the V ietnam War era). Merry's speech is full of negativity: she constantly insults LBJ and uses lots of four letter words. Swede wonders when her divergence from talking about dolls to talking about politics occurred. Her anger finally manifests itself physically in what may or may not be a futile act: she blows up a post office, which results in the murder of a single employee. On my initial reading, I viewed this as a meaningless act by a radical anarchist who wants to subvert the war effort. But it can also be read as a severing of communication -the physical destruction of a linguistic carrier. It's a post office: people rely on it to spread news and tidings. It's as if Merry had murdered the pony express rider or brought the Internet down. A s you can imagine, that event is the focal point of the novel and results in a total collapse of the Levovs' lives. Merry goes into hiding, and Swede's wife suffers mental breakdowns. He later remarries. What can account for thi s other shift, the one from Y iddish to English? Is it always as violent as the events of American Pastoral ? Why did immigrant authors like A nzia Y ezierska (1880 1970), A braham Cahan (1860 1951), and of course Henry Roth (1906 1995), choose not to w rite in the language they used growing up in their homes? Though incredibly different, these immigrants are connected to writers of today like Philip Roth, Nathan Englander, Jonathan Safran Foer. Mendelssohn's characterization of Y iddish as a wild tongue that sets Jews too far apart: an increasing desire to assimilate by eradicating Y iddish might be one response to changing Jewish identity, and quite an extreme one at that, but it is in no way the whole answer. It is not nuanced enough. In Ozick' s "Envy," Edelshtein decries the Jews who know nothing; those who write in English and awkwardly use a smattering of Y iddish words (like yours truly). My
Silberstein ## response to Ozick's story, though sad, is easy to make: the death of Y iddish is nigh, and the Amikane r geboren Jews "court amnesia of history" (Envy 879). Ilan Stavans expands Ozick's prophecy with one of his own, and proclaims English as the new Y iddish, or new Jewish voice there is room for growth, modification. Jews do not have to speak Y iddish as Edelshtein claims, but they must connect with the past. In the introduction to Pushcarts and Dreamers (1969) Max Rosenfeld writes, Without a background of A merican Y iddish literature, contemporary writing about A merican Jews is disconnected from a vita l part of its own past. Without this background, a distorted picture results a record of Jewish experience with a gap that will hurt the self understanding of A merican Jews. It cannot be omitted it is a link in a long chain (24, 25). The antagonists in "Envy, the young Jews devoid of cultural knowledge, represent an extreme that parallels Edelshtein's equally extreme and obstinate refusal to move out of Y iddish: neither group will adapt their Jewish past to mesh with their new A merican surroundings. One of my favorite scenes from "Envy" is the part where Edelshtein lists the A merican Jewish writers who are very popular. He contrasts them with Y iddish writers, popular ones in the Y iddish world, who are unknown not just by the A merican public, but by a large portion of Jewry. Readers of "Envy" will know these A merican Jewish writers: Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Grace Paley, and Saul Bellow. Why aren't we, the assimilated English reading Jews, familiar with the Y iddishists H. Leivick, Morris Rosenf eld, Mani Leib, et cetera? Because "THEY HA V E NO TRA NSLA TORS!" (Envy 865). Edelshtein's list of names makes us realize that a world has gone missing. These competing lists can be seen as summarizing the whole story of Envy, and the tension between t he old and the new.
Silberstein #$ In my second chapter, I contrast Edelshtein, a shlimazl, or unlucky man, with his English speaking Jewish antagonists, but also with his real life counterparts, recreated in Ozicks fiction. This historical approach defines the angle I take with the text, as Edelshtein is the fictional incarnation of Jacob Glatstein, a poet without a translator. A s we can grasp the struggles involved with literary tradition in attempting to look at the whole of Jewish literature, Envy presents us wit h an excellent, specific event of this heritage passing, or rather a lack thereof. The fictional characters' identities are formed by way of 'brick walls that they run up against, i.e. the impending death of Y iddish, a dearth of translators, and the young er, more assimilated generations. Edelshtein must then identify against these different groups in order to find himself. English reading Jews, do not know the famous Y iddish writers who Edelshtein lists, writers who wrote in one of the most Jewish langua ges of all time. Returning to the significance of Torah inheritance, we can see that the generational divide in Envy severs this Birthright of literary heritage in the story Y iddish is not passed on, heritage and culture are not passed on. A nd like the act of destruction that Merry Levov commits, Edelshtein slaps a young, Amerikaner Geboren girl in the face for her refutation of Y iddish. A s I clarify in chapter two, the act of writing the story, for Ozick, was a personal attempt to reconnect to this Y iddish past; and though she must do it in English, she still finds her Jewish voice. It is also this search for a personal voice that has given birth to the thesis you are reading. Jacob Glatstein (the real life Edelshtein) wrote an essay about I. L. Pe retz, one of the founders of Y iddish literature, and only the first four words are needed to help summarize this thesis: A mong our principal writers (Peretz 51). The our allows for Jewish possession of Peretz and a link to the past. Y et, here is Gl atstein,
Silberstein #% writing in A merica (not Warsaw) in a Modernist style and outlook that are totally different from Peretzs thematics and time; the modification of Jewish voices is essential for posterity as well. In Ozick's sad story, however, one that is populat ed by uncaring upstart young Jews, Max Rosenfeld's dictum, and Glatsteins possession of the past, wither away unmet as A mericas Jewish youth forsake their Y iddish speaking ancestors. But Y iddish and Y iddishkeit will not die they will transform, an d English might be a key to posterity. Edelshtein does not or cannot recognize that the Jewish writers in his A merican list have voices distinct from their gentile neighbors (although Hannah does not recognize this either). A aron Lansky writes, "We [youn g Jews] could spend the rest of our lives studying Y iddish literature and never know a fraction of what Chone Shmeruk [a famous Y iddish scholar of Polish descent] knew. I'm the head of a major Y iddish organization, yet my Y iddish is still not half as flue nt as that of my grandfather, and he was a junkman" (286). Lansky continues, Despite our abiding commitment to history, my colleagues and I at the Y iddish Book Center do not pine for the Old Country or for the past. We are who we are, where we are, when we are. A nd in that sense I prefer to compare us not to Chone Shmeruk...but to Zushya, a nineteenth century Hasidic rabbi. "When I die," Zushya foretold, "God will not ask me, 'Zushya, why weren't you more like Moses? God will ask, 'Zushya, why were you not more like Zushya? '" We A merican Jews are often ignorant of history, but we are shaped and challenged by it all the same. Here on the free soil of New England, where our permanent home now stands, we have as good a chance as any to outwit [history] stil l. (288)
Silberstein #& Lansky is alluding to the building at Hampshire College that now houses more than a million Y iddish books. A language that never had a home other than the mouths of Jews, Jews who have spread as far as Russia, Zimbabwe, Egypt and A rgentina, has now settled down. 2 Due to Lanskys and many others efforts, Y iddish will survive and outwit history. Today, Michael Chabon carries the torch, and assists in helping Y iddish live on. In writing The Yiddish Policeman's Union (2007) he follows Max Rosen feld's dictum and lives Jewish history. Just as Y iddish vocabulary permeates Ozicks primarily English text, this attribute defines Chabons novel as well. He has also come to the same epiphany as Ebenezer Scrooge: to live in the past, present, and futur e. Obviously Ozick has done this, as she is able to reference the obscure Y iddish writers. Chabon even does what Lansky does, building a home for Y iddish, albeit in a fictional and requisite comical manner: the names of Y iddish writers title the streets of Jewish A laska. In reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated (2002), we do not have to strain hard, either, to connect the comical nature and the foibles of the author's eponymous character in his trek across the Ukraine to make sense of his past, with those of Sholom A leichem's Tevye the Dairyman (ca. 1894 1916) to make sense of the future. Tevye asks, "what will happen to my Jewish children? while Foer asks, "what has happened to my Jewish ancestors? ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 2 It behooves one to remember that Y iddish was not wholly dependent on geography Refer back to the Wex quote on pages 4 and 5: Y iddish embodies culture and history, not necessarily location. Israe l, like A merica, now has emerging Y iddish programs an attempt to save the past.
Silberstein #' It is a similar necessity to fin d complementary texts that comprises my focus in chapter one, which is on Isaac Bashevis Singer; his inclusion in this thesis represents my own reach to the past, and a balancing act with Ozicks more contemporary stance. Indeed, Ozicks portrayal of Sing er as the fictional Ostrover marks her own connections to the past, too. When the Nobel Laureate moved from the urban Warsaw to his mothers shtetl of Bilgoray in 1917, he experienced a sort of cognitive dissonance. The critic Irving Buchen quotes Singe r: it [the shtetl of Bilgoray] was pretty much the same as it must have been during the time of Chmielnicki [seventeenth century Cossack leader] I could have written The Family Moskat (which takes place in Warsaw) without having lived in Bilgoray, but I could never have written Satan in Goray or some of my other stories without having been there (9). Nearly half of his oeuvre represents a connection to the past. Singer could not have revisited these seventeenth century pogroms in his novel The Slave ( Der Knekht, 1969) without experiencing the shtetl, and, needless to say, Singer could not have written Enemies, a Love Story ( Sonim, di Geshichte fun a Liebe, 1972) without living in New Y ork, the two novels I analyze. Just as the authors novels comple te each other in terms of historical or temporal Jewish experiences, so too do his characters. His protagonists are always searching for their tikkun or cosmic pairing, which they attempt to find through bonding with others. Ozicks characters do the op posite, forming their identities against their rivals, while static mores and obstinate parochialism comprise Singers antagonists. Y entl, however, takes the route of Ozicks characters, as her gender subverts normative paradigms, and she uses others to d efine herself against what she is not. A s Edelshtein realizes he is not nor ever can be an
Silberstein #( English writer, Y entl realizes she is neither male nor female she is most importantly a Jew. Though Singer was heavily criticized for having his male leads lust a fter unclean shiksas or gentile women (the fictional representation of this criticism is explored in the Ozick chapter), his work brings up profound questions of Jewish and human identity by showing how different people interact and subsequently transform Isaac Singer encapsulates two Jewish realms: the Old and the New worlds of Eastern Europe and A merica, respectively. His work also attempts to combine the realms of male and female, Jew and gentile. That there exists a Norton A nthology of Jewis h A merican literature is a testament to this ever changing definition of Jewishness, and the need to define one's self, and t o do so in relation to language, the past and current location A merica prompted Y iddish poems in the early 1900s to invoke Walt W hitman; an epic poem, in Y iddish, that celebrates the wilds of Kentucky; and Chabon to create a Y iddish speaking nation in Alaska There is something distinct and unique and special about being both Jewish and A merican that obviously merited the creation of the Norton Anthology of Jewish American Literature in 2001, and previously, the collection The Rise of American Jewish Fiction in 1970. It can be said that Ozick's Edelshtein, like Moses Mendelssohn, constitutes another opposite extreme: the refusal to adapt and change, to embrace A merica. He is unaware that writing in English does not necessarily entail forsaking Jewishness. Wirth Nesher writes on this world from which Edelshtein distances himself: A n emphasis on the democratic value of speech in Tw ain, Whitman, and Emerson, coupled with resistance to one uniform language [i.e. a nation wide "A merican" dialect], enabled Jewish A mericans to shape English as
Silberstein #) well as to be shaped by it. A s a result, the age old Jewish multilingual tradition in its encou nter with the openness of the A merican language has generated a singular literary and cultural dynamic that distinguishes it from the literature of other ethnic groups in the United States. (English 7) A merican influence worked another way as well, shap ing the face of Y iddish before English became the unilateral or normative Jewish tongue; Pushcarts and Dreamers being a collection of Y iddish stories written and set in A merica, is a good example. This dimension also manifests when stories written in Y idd ish, yet without any other overt Jewish factors, are examined. Consider Y ente Serdatsky, for example. Presumably set in A merica, her story "Unchanged" (ca. 1910 1922) has no overtly Jewish attributes, except that it was written in Yiddish and therefore anticipates a Jewish readership. It is simply the tale of an immigrant girl who moves from a small town to a big city in another country. Imagine reading Serdatsky's story under these conditions: without footnotes and the knowledge that it was tran slated from Y iddish, or not reading it in the Jewish American Fiction: a Norton Anthology whose works by virtue of collection imply an inherent spot of Jewishness. Under those circumstances, the reader would not get a hint that this is a "Jewish" story. Moreover, when I read "Unchanged," I was reminded not at all of Jewish A merican writers but of Plath, Flaubert, and Kafka; in short, secular writers. But when one reads Kafka in German (or in English), does one think of him as a Jewish writer, writing ab out Jewish themes? If you didn't know you were reading a story by Kafka (or if you didn't recognize his style, or perhaps it is the first piece of his you have read, or his
Silberstein #* name is erased) you would not think of him as a Jewish writer. But Serdatsky wrot e in Y iddish, and Kafka did not. Kafka, while ostensibly one of the greatest writers of the Jewish persuasion, is completely ensconced in the secular tradition and his work directly reflects this immersion and subsequent though perhaps unintentional, den ial of his Jewishness. 3 Is Serdatsky's story, not written about Jews or anything Jewish, more Jewish than, say, J.D. Salinger's stories, which contain nothing more than the tiniest pintele yid or Jewish spark? I contend that it is, and only slightl y more, but that is by default: having been written it Y iddish, it is Jewish by virtue of being unassimilated, in contrast to The Catcher in the Rye or Mailer's Armies of the Night In the end, this distinction is arbitrary. Serdatsky and Mailer are inc luded in the Norton A nthology while Salinger is not, but I am unsure whether I agree or disagree with this exclusion; both writers are exploring what they feel they need to explore and are doing so in the way (i.e. language) they see fit. Jewish lite rature utterly destroys New Criticism 4 and necessitates knowledge of an authors past and historical position Though the only religious utterance one espies in Kafkas work would be Jesus Christ when characters emote frustration, one can do a little r esearch and realize that his story The Judgment was written over the night of ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 3 Kafka like Singer, has a gigantic presence in Jewish literature. Both Singer himself and Philip Roth have fictionally reproduced him; Ozick has written many essays on him and so has Hannah A rendt and Harold Bloom In this way, because he persists so palpably for Jewish authors, Kafka is perhaps the most famous Jewish writer of all time. 4 Jewish literature should not be treat[ed] as if it were a self contained, self referential object, nor should an authors life be divorced from the close reading of the text, as New Critics are wo nt to do (Murfin 293). See, as well, page 163 of Ozicks Toward a New Y iddish (cited throughout in her collection Art & Ardor ) in whic h she attacks the New Critics.
Silberstein #, September 21 / 22 1912, which was Yom Kippur 5 The story aptly explores the mes of repentance and sacrifice, not to mention Kafkas biographical Oedipal complex; Kafka was also enamored with the Y iddish theater. One can do a little research and realize that Y ente Serdatsky was indeed a Y iddish writer, and reflected in her fiction the Jewish immigrant experience from Poland to New Y ork. One can also come to the conclusion, if on e reads Salinger through this Jewish lens, that he detailed the tribulations of his (or perhaps any) assimilated Jewish A merican family. If read by a Jew (i. e. me and, say, Philip Roth) these writers become Jewish, and important facets of the Jewish lite rary canon: they demarcate its changes and catalogue its panoply of Jewish identities over time and place. These are the same conclusions I draw on Ozi cks fiction in chapter two : Jewish identity, and fiction, is an inclusive, yet personalized, and/ or. Though they wrote at different times, in different languages and about different subjects, Kafka, Salinger and Serdatsky are all Jews; they are the linguistic polyglot and represent the many coexisting varieties of Jews. We cannot deny the heterogeneity of Jewish identity, as this identity is defined by many equally valid incarnations of Yiddishkeyt ( Jewishness ) A nalyzing the usage of English or any language by Jews helps map the changes of Jewish identities over time and place. A fter the Y iddis h influx, Jews attempted to A mericanize. But I use "A mericanize" loosely; I agree fully with Ruth Wisse when she says that Jews "did not perceive the change of language as a necessary shift of loyalties" (Language ). This can be seen with the Y iddish speakers who switched to English, but for a number of reasons: did they wish to reach a larger, A merican audience? Y es. But more importantly, they wanted to expound upon their ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 5 The Jewish high holida y of atonement and fasting observed on the tenth of Tishrei
Silberstein $unique Jewish A merican identities which they could do by simply writing in En glish and to be more than or something plus being a Jew. Saul Bellow agrees: But taking one thing with another and feeling that everybody in A merica was a visitor, a tourist, a stranger, a foreigner, and that the language was there as everybodys resou rce, one didnt know what else to do except use [English] with a certain spirit, and in defiance of the so called owners of the culture and of the language. A nd remembering, after all, that the Jews were just as able to use Greek, or Italian, or Spanish, o r any number of other languages as well as Hebrew, and that they had made a not bad record in those languages, they simply decided to override local provincial prejudices of the dominant A merican cultural class and to go ahead. That is what I did and this is what many others like me did. ("Blessed") In short, Salinger, Mailer, and their ilk hoped to be(come) A merican by being Jewish in a new way: modifying English. A llen Guttmann calls these two writers "nominally Jews, but they are in no important sense Jewish writers, nor does their work deal significantly with the process of assimilation or the resultant crisis of identity" (13). That their fiction does not focus on these themes is, I believe, important in itself, especially in regard to the status of Jewish writers in A merica. It begs the questions: do they feel comfortable enough in A merica to not explore Jewish identity? If so, why? Salinger and Mailer do not go to the extremes of Mendelssohn, and pretend to know what is ''best for the Jews.'' Gut tmann and Edelshtein nearly take Mendelssohns route just in the opposite direction: "The survival in A merica of a significant and identifiably Jewish literature depends upon the unlikely conversion to Judaism of a stiff necked, intractable, irreverent, a ttractive
Silberstein $# generation that no longer chooses to be chosen" (Guttmann 227). That we are merely debating the "Jewishness" of Salinger, Mailer, Kafka and Serdatsky is evidence that they are important to the study of Jewish literary identity, and stand as test aments to its diversity. Though right now I am not discussing such diverse Jewish backgrounds as A shkenzic and Sephardic, Salinger and Mailer still offer variety within the canon of Jewish A merican fiction due to their level of assimilation Hana Wirth Nesher and Michael Kramer give this disclaimer, with which I agree: "it is problematic to say that they all [that is, all the different types of Jews in A merica] belong to a common literary tradition" ( Cambridge 3) A ll these Jewish writers, a group as wi de as Ladino speaking Sephardic rabbis from the seventeenth century colonies, to English language hippy poets of the sixties g ive the canon its very fiber: they show us that being A merican can mean anything. Consequently, they also show readers that bein g Jewish can mean almost anything, and that this stratification of Jewishness, or Yiddishkeyt, in A merica is widely arrayed. "A merican Jews," writes the critic Ruth Wisse, "felt a possessive love for English literature, [and] determined to make it their o wn" ("Language" 133). Y iddish greatly helped in the formation of a Jewish identity, albeit an Eastern European one, and English can do the same: it is the contemporary paradigm for Jewish identity exploration in A merica. But, as stated earlier, both Cynthia Ozick and Henry Roth grew up in Y iddish speaking homes. Why the need to write in English, then? For Ozick it is a matter of convenience; she would not be comfortable writing in Y iddish, although she laments her inability to do
Silberstein $$ so. But for Roth it was necessary: only heavily accented English could convey the verisimilitude of the Lower East Side. Ozick obviously uses this strategy as well, although she portrays the finality of immigration. Roths novel stands as an example of immigrant li fe and as a reaction to modernity; it is a documentary, as is Ozicks Envy with its copious amounts of Y iddish words and historical verisimilitude. For its own context, Call It Sleep despite the individualized stream of consciousness narration fits in to a large immigrant structure. We cannot help but recognize the non uniqueness of David Schearl's experiences, the hard working father, and the cloistered mother. The heteroglossia of the novel subtly alludes to this, and allows readers to recognize tha t we are not merely immersed in Davy's world, but in a much larger environment, one permeated by millions of immigrants, whether they speak Y iddish or Italian or Polish. The thousands of Jewish, Y iddish speaking immigrants even called A merica The Goldene Medina, the Golden land, and Mary A ntin gave her atuobiography the optimistic title The Promised Land (1912), names which entail paradise and salvation on a par with that of the Biblical Land of Israel. A waiting these poor, huddled masses, though, was a g reat deal of strife. Looking to other works of Jewish A merican writers, we can also witness a larger immigrant structure: strife, especially that of the familial, economic, religious, and assimilationist varieties, typifies A nzia Y ezierska's work, an d that of many poets (both Y iddish and English) who reflect on their youth in New Y ork City. Y ezierska's Bread Givers (1925) is the A merican version of Sholom A leichem's story cycle Tevye the Dairyman : the useless father, representing the past, cannot con trol his many daug hters, who represent the future. T he fathers also cling to the Torah, while the women champion
Silberstein $% secular literature. Sara Smolinsky, the protagonist of Bread Givers, dedicates her life to learning English, while Maxim Gorky brings more re levance to the life of one of Tevye's daughters than Holy Scripture (A leichem 72). This theme of modern, secular texts versus the older, traditional ones permeates a large section of Jewish literature and typifies Ozicks and Singers work as well Y ez ierska's novel, written in English, and the previously mentioned collection Pushcarts & Peddlers that compiles Y iddish stories, both show us this struggling, massive, lower class. These books also convey the transplantation of troubled Jews from the Old Wo rld to the New and its reflection in A merican fiction. A be Cahan, the founder of the Yiddish Daily Forward in 1897 wrote a famous novel called The Rise of David Levinksy (1917). It is a classic rags to riches tale of a poor, Jewish immigrant; but the no vel is not at all as realistic as Roth's, which has been deemed a great proletarian work for its portrayal of a working class family. Everyone was not as lucky as David Levinsky nor A be Cahan. 6 We can also contrast Y ezierskas Sara Smolinsky, and her des ire to learn English, with that of Edelshtein's refusal to do so in Ozicks contemporary fiction. But Sara does not veer as far as the extreme young Amerikaner geboren Jews that populate "Envy": she eventually falls for man who wants to learn Hebrew and l oves the Old Country, thereby perpetuating tradition and retaining her Jewishness. A s some Jews struggled financially, almost all struggled linguistically. Jewish immigrants understandably experienced strife in a later influx, the post World War Tw o immigration. Ozick explores more contrasts between Jews in her Holocaust ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 6 Henry Roth was certainly unlucky: after Call it Sleep he faced bankruptcy due to writers block.
Silberstein $& themed novella The Shawl (1989). A woman who can assimilate in Europe subsequently sets herself apart from the Y iddish speaking Jews of Poland because of her erudition and ability to speak Polish, rather than lowly Y iddish. She is later lumped in with them in the Warsaw ghetto and finally a concentration camp. This protagonist, Rosa, ultimately finds herself unable to cope with and adapt to her new setting of A merica, though the Jews she previously looked down upon can fit in Though Rosa does not share Edelshtein's language, she shares his inability to cope with the A merican present. Bellow's National Book A ward winning novel, Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970), discussed further in the conclusion, also centers around a Polish immigrant who cannot fit in with post World War Two A merican Jewish life. His and his friends' children present striking contrasts with Sammler's generation: many are not immigrants (in Sammler's daughter's cas e she is, but her past and immigration have strange effects upon her: she is not comfortable in Europe nor A merica nor Israel) and they are sexually promiscuous. While Bellow is celebrated for his cognizance and exploration of these sexual differences in his fiction, Singer was previously belittled for doing so. Literary times are simply changing. Sammler sees psychological problems affecting the younger generation, his own daughter being a perfect example: she is schizophrenic. Sammler, however, is not free from these same defects either. Wirth Nesher writes on The Shawl and Mr. Sammler's Planet: "Products of the Polish Jewish upper class, of an assimilated and urbane world, Sammler and Rosa find themselves in an A merican urban nightmare that has embitt ered them further" ( English 129). It is not just the Y iddish speaking Jews who have lost a world and who have a hard time in A merica. These later immigrants must experience what
Silberstein $' their Y iddish speaking landsmen have previously gone through: finding purcha se in A merica. A s I have shown with Philip Roth's work, whose characters are far detached from specifically immigrant anxieties, these struggles still seem to proliferate in what has been seen as assimilated Jewish A merica. "In these works," Miriam S ivan says of contemporary Jewish A merican fiction, like that of Bellow, Philip Roth and Ozick, "one feels the struggle to define what it is that constitutes a people who successfully belong to the majority culture and are simultaneously a religious/ nationa l minority with a cherished identity... A merica's Jewish writers are proud hybrids," but they must still examine themselves ( Belonging 2). A nother of Ozick's characters, Ruth Puttermesser, must create a Golem, a symbol of Jewish past and of struggle to fi nd purchase in an alien land, in order to secure her place in A merica, as opposed to the Jews of sixteenth century Prague. The question of fitting in, or finding oneself, will not go away, and the use of language is one key to understanding. Indeed, when Puttermesser brings the Golem to life, she utters the word "haShem," rendered in the text of the story with Hebrew script: !"# 7 A lthough Salinger and Mailer do not explore these struggles in an overtly Jewish way, they still address the issue of A merican identity and the struggles entailed therein The meaning, or consequences, of the heteroglossic in Call It Slee p are revealed in Ozick's "Envy," as the story can be seen as a literary descendant. Heavily accented Jews give way to Jews who speak perfect English, and eventually to the loss of Y iddish and ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + ) + I wonder if Ozick had as hard a tim e as I have Kinkos reverses the Hebrew script and so I have to type it backwards in order for it to come out legibly Merely printing a Jewish voice is a difficult act in this nation.
Silberstein $( perhaps of their history. If "Envy" gives us an acute picture of one man's struggles with language and his fight against the other Jews assimilated future, another novel gives us a broad overview of temporal and generational shift. We can use Lewisohn's work The Island Within (1928) a sort of Jewish Buddenbrooks (written by a famous friend of Lewisohn's, Thomas Mann, in 1901) as a frame in this regard: dialogue occurs in three languages, and we can trace the progression of the tongues chronologically over nearly 100 years from Y iddish to German to English. A re we witnessing mere assimilation? No, though that is certainly a factor. We see, rather, the transformation of Jewish identity over time. Indeed, in the early section we see a contrast between the Hasidim and the Orthodox, the latter eventually leading to h ighly assimilated Jews in A merica; but, near the end, a Hasid enters the story, one who is a relative of these same unobservant Jews. The face of Judaism and of Jews is changing. The concluding assimilated characters of Lewisohn's novel face real lif e manifestations in the guises of Foer and Chabon. Just as A rthur Levy, the final protagonist of The Island Within, must travel back to Poland to revisit the past (the aforementioned Hasid is the harbinger of history) so too must our contemporary writers like Foer, revisit events such as the Holocaust; or, in Chabon's case, modify history to create a Y iddish nation. Scrooge's avowal to live in the past, present and future comes to mind: can it not be said that this is what Jewish writers have been doing and must continue doing? I, for one, feel compelled to live in New Y ork; Florida is my Diaspora. We can conclude this section, I believe, with the pronouncement that assimilation is not an answer, nor even a fully attainable goal. Let this scene from T he Island Within speak for itself: When questioned by his gentile wife regarding the chance of raising their son
Silberstein $) as a religious Jew, A rthur Levy hints that it might be what he wants. His wife, visibly disgusted at the possibility, then wonders, "Can't we all just be human? A rthur replies, "In a word, this vague cry, let us be human it's a favorite among Jews means nothing and gets you no where" (Lewisohn 278).
Silberstein $* ONE Completing Men: Tikkun in the Work of Isaac Bashevis Singer D o I c o n t r a d i c t m y s e l f ? V e r y w e l l t h e n I c o n t r a d i c t m y s e l f ( I a m l a r g e I c o n t a i n m u l t i t u d e s ) W a l t W h i t m a n S o n g o f M y s e l f $ % & ( ) + # & ( ( $ a n d [ m a n ] s h a l l c l e a v e u n t o h i s w i f e a n d t h e y s h a l l b e o n e f l e s h G e n e s i s 2 : 2 4 Creating humankind was p robably a complicated process for G d. Understanding that process, then, is difficult and complicated as well. The original Hebrew of the Torah concerning the creation of humans is typified by repetition, poetry and confusion, and this has resulted in mo untains of commentary. When G d says, let us create man in our image, who is the we? Is it Him and the angels? Or is G d Himself multiple or is He intersex? Debate on the image of G d will never cease, but the Midrash (Biblical interpretation) tells us, regarding G d's creation, that man as first created consisted of two halves, male and female, which were afterwards separated, and are always searching to reconnect (Soncino 7). In order to talk about G d, we must also discuss His creation, humanki nd, who has been made in His image, as confusing as that image may be. The duality of humans has long been discussed in many fields: in Jungs A nima and A nimus, and in Judaisms theory of T i k k u n or repair, for example. Contemporary feminist studies of Judaism also discuss this binary of male versus female. The work of Isaac Bashevis Singer, the famous Y iddish writer and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1978, addresses this theme at nearly every opportunity. A s one critic notes, to look through
Silberstein $, Singer s work is to catalogue the fusion or disintegration of opposites (Golden 36). Indeed, one protagonist appropriately surmises that he had begun to understand why union, the joining of male and female, was so important in the Cabala 8 ( Enemies 47). Two of Singer's protagonists, Jacob in The Slave (1967) and Herman Broder in Enemies, a Love Story (1972), are men searching for this resolution as well as their place s in their respective worlds. Indeed, it seems as if the setting and events of The Slave se venteenth century Poland, a time marked by pogroms and the Chmielnicki massacres have been transplanted to twentieth century New Y ork in Enemies whose characters struggle with the aftereffects of another disaster, the Holocaust. Jacob, like his B iblical namesake, forms his identity by means of two women in his life, and Herman Broder via three. Broder meets his women at different times in his life and in different places, and they all mean different things to him, but the drama of the novel comes about when they all simultaneously appear in New Y ork: Broder finds himself with two wives and a mistress, whom he later marries. I compare Jacob and Herman to Y entl, of Singers Y entl the Y eshiva Boy (first published in 1962), and the rare female prota gonist of his work. Y entls characteristics are completely disparate from that of Herman and Jacob, and her romantic interests revolve around both a lesbian infatuation and a straight one, with which she attempts to form her identity. This queer Singer p rotagonist, however, attempts to find her Tikkun, realizes she does not need to, and ends up completely subverting gender roles. This chapter seeks to examine the male versus female binary with which Herman and Jacob struggle, uses Singers Y entl as a ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 8 Singer renders it Cabala, while I use Kabbalah which is usu ally the normative English transliteration of the Hebrew #)(+
Silberstein %pos sible foil, and pairs this study with contemporary Biblical gender criticism. I will explore the different ways in which women complement mens' lives, as Herman and Jacob experience different outcomes, and react to their tikkunim in varying ways: one find s closure while one does not. The first woman we encounter in Enemies Broders wife Y adwiga, helps form an integral part of him. Herman Broder meets this wife in the old country and marries her because she helped him elude the Nazis. The husband a nd wife are Jew and Gentile, and their relationship is mirrored in that of their parakeets: one male, one female, one yellow and one blue. The cage that houses the birds is a vestige of Europe, and symbolizes the isolation in which Y adwiga was forced to h ide Herman in her hayloft. In A merica, however, the situation is reversed: Y adwiga never leaves the apartment, she only speaks Polish, and it is Herman who is now free. A nd he is essentially free to see other women. Y et Y adwiga is necessary to Hermans existence because she saved his life, and supports his new life in A merica by keeping house and representing stability. Hermans mistress, Masha, is a Jew and a refugee just like him, and she speaks Y iddish. She lives in the Bronx, while Y adwiga is stuck in Brooklyn. He never knew Masha in the Old Country, but she swore that a gypsy fortuneteller had foretold her meeting with Herman. The gypsy had described him down to the smallest detail ( Enemies 29). Mashas presence in Hermans life is that o f bashert, or fate, and she and her mother, who is very traditional, also constitute a religious facet of the novel. Masha is necessary to Hermans existence because she is necessary it is by supernatural ordinance that theyre together, and we will see this trope repeat itself in The Slave.
Silberstein %# Enter Tamara. Or re enter, to be more precise. Tamara was Hermans wife in the Old Country who, according to a witness, the Nazis killed. Herman meets up with her via an advertisement printed in a Y iddish paper by a relative that lists his name. Now, Herman has a woman in three different boroughs: Y adwiga in Brooklyn, Masha in the Bronx and Tamara in Manhattan. Her return is so encompassing that it even brings along all the boring attributes of P oland. When visiting her in Manhattan, Herman notices, in some odd way all the mundane characteristics of the Polish Jewish past had been transplanted to this place ( Enemies 99). Tamaras embodiment of the past due to her mistakenly believed death is i mportant in order for Herman to reconnect with the Old World: Herman saw in Tamaras return a symbol of his mystical beliefs. Whenever he was with her, he re experienced the miracle of resurrection ( Enemies 131). Tamara pulls Herman into a liminal spac e between life and death; she represents both history and beginning, old and new alike. Moreoever, her very existence is hard to pin down; she claims that Im not alive and Im not dead ( Enemies 189) Tamaras return also seems to be evoking parallel s with Hermans relationship with Masha regarding supernatural fate. A ll of these women are associated in some way with nature. Y adwiga not only keeps the birds, but when she was a peasant back in Poland she used her rural abode to hide He rman, and, while in New Y ork, he fancies that he is still hiding in her hay loft ( Enemies 4). V acationing with Masha in the A dirondacks, she and Herman experience a montage of pastoral settings as they travel from one lakeside cabin to another. In one sc ene, flies, bees and butterflies flew in through the open window of the cottage, which can be contrasted with the description of Hermans subway ride earlier in the novel: it
Silberstein %$ hadnt been this hot even during the summer in the hayloft. Jews must have be en packed together like this in the freight cars that carried them to the gas chambers ( Enemies 114, 89). Conflating the metro with Hitlers genocide machines is intense imagery, and so Herman and Masha would obviously seem to be much more comfortable in the rural setting of upstate New Y ork than in the city. Both childbirth and sex are both major themes of Singers work, and help to constitute his characters identities. In Enemies each of Hermans women takes on different roles regardi ng children: Masha, a harlot who represents false promises or temptation, believes that she is carrying Hermans child, but it is a psychological delusion. In a dramatic scene, she bleeds out, emptying herself of the nothing that was there. Tamara, due t o her embodiment of the past, survives the Holocaust while her children do not. A fter a single sexual act with Herman in the New World, one committed in the wilds of the A dirondacks no less, she finds herself unable to copulate with him again. With her d ead children and inability to have sex, Tamara takes on a changed role regarding Herman, a more motherly one, and she gets h i m a new job in her bookstore. Essentially, she runs his life: Herman was willing to let the Powers lead him, whether they were ca lled Chance or Providence or Tamara ( Enemies 245). A t the end of the novel, Tamara ends up helping raise the child Herman has with Y adwiga. A s in The Slave it is the gentile woman who bears the Jewish male protagonists child, who can be seen as symbolizing the future. Y adwiga converts to Judaism for Herman and announces her desire to bear him a Jewish child ( Enemies 149). This leads to Hermans dedication to become more pious, and to swear off his affair with Masha, both of which he la ter reneges on. Indeed, the whole novel is full of Hermans constant
Silberstein %% vacillation and his attitude towards Judaism: at times swearing off meat, studying Talmud and waxing poetic about it, and on the other hand, claiming at one point of not even being a Jew ( Enemies 274). The outcome of Hermans competing identities and women will be explored later, in contrast to Singers other protagonists. Though writing specifically about The Slave, Karl Markoffs observations could apply to all of Singe rs fiction. He notes that the heart of the novel is not its plot, but rather its perception of reality as a boundless series of dichotomies, opposites yoked together in uneasy tension (162). Many opposing spheres comprise Jacobs world: the gentile an d the Jewish, the female and the male. Jacob is torn between each one and is in constant flux: he become[s] a man at war with himself ( Slave 40). Here, Walt Whitmans famous line about containing contradictions achieves relevance. Whitman knows (and so do we) that, despite conflicting attributes, he is still Whitman. But how does one reconcile these contradictions? Singers protagonists wrestle with this question. Jacobs changes in location and in his thoughts, just like Hermans and Whitmans, repr esent this struggle and his attempt to reconcile these binaries. These internal identity struggles, brought about by alternating interactions with a number of women, typify Jacobs existential crises in The Slave as well as Hermans. For example, Wanda a gentile, wants to bear the Jew Jacob a son just like Y adwiga, thereby uniting with him. Childbirth is a gateway to identity for both Wanda and Jacob. Wanda beseeches him: take me away from here to your Jews. I want to be your wife and bear you a son ( Slave 70). When Jacob finally does go back to spirit Wanda away, she tells him that his absence would have been easier for her if Id had a child by you ( Slave 136). Presaging this, in their Edenic isolation, Jacob puts Wanda through a
Silberstein %& rudimentary co nversion process, utilizing a stream as a mikveh or ritual bath. This use of nature represents another meld for the city bred Jacob. Y adwiga and Wanda, though representing the distinct gentile side of the non Jewish versus Jewish binary, work to undo it and to break it down. Wanda is a very interesting individual: even though she has lived her whole life in the isolated Polish mountains (her familys home is not even near the village, much less any type of city), Wanda seemed city bred ( Slave 16). Some critics contend that Wanda is associated with the Edenic landscape, but I tend to disagree slightly (Friedman 53). Wanda can be seen as mixture of both nature and culture because she has refined, citified attributes. Furthermore, her speech cou ld be understood, and if it were not for her, Jacob would have forgotten he had a tongue in his head ( Slave 16 17). Jacob is dependent upon Wanda and a bond is forged because she is more like him than the other villagers. The extent to which Jacob nee ds Wanda and the effect she has on him is life changing: She assisted him in fulfilling his obligations as a Jew. Thus, when in winter, on the Sabbath, her father commanded him to light the oven, she got up before Jacob and lit the kindling herself and a dded the firewood. She brought him barley kasha, honey, fruit from the orchard A nother time, a snake had bitten him in the arm, and she had put the wound to her mouth and sucked out the venom. This had not been the only time Wanda had saved his life. ( Slave 17) Here is further example of Wandas conflation with nature, but we can also see that Jacobs life is in Wandas hands, and she has protected him physically, but spiritually as
Silberstein %' well. He owes both his body and his soul to her. A s Jacobs well bei ng is directly tied to his spiritual piety, he is apprehensive of the lust he feels for Wanda and believes Satan has designed this suffering, and he also decries his lack of phylacteries 9 and other religious garb ( Slave 17). A gain, a link between the spir itual and the physical is drawn when Jacob wonders, How could he keep his heart pure when he had no fringed garment to wear? ( Slave 17). Wanda, despite assisting Jacob in his Jewish duties, contrarily causes him to turn to those religious traditions in order to stave off the lust he feels for her. A constant push and pull of the spiritual and physical defines their relationship: Wandas touch and Jacobs yearning for phylacteries (a physical reminder of G d) combine with Jacobs dreams and constant spir itual and religious struggles concerning her. Two other binaries are found in juxtaposing the romantic trysts of the peasants with that of the Jews. Jacob notices that, in the village, love was a random matter ( Slave 21). Back in Josefov, in th e Jewish town, Jacob was engaged at the age of twelve to a ten year old ( Slave 54). Furthermore, he has no real interest in his child bride; all he wants to do is read the Torah, and immediately after the wedding, he immersed himself so deeply in his stu dies that he forgot the outside world ( Slave 55). It is ironic that Jacob reacts with isolation to his marriage: something designed to incorporate him into the social world. Zelda Leah, Jacobs first wife, also stands in stark contrast both to him ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 9 Phylacteries, or tefillin, are a set of small cubic leather boxes painted black, containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah with leather straps dyed black on one side, and worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. The source texts for tefillin in the Torah are obscure in literal mean ing. For example, the following verse from the Shema states: "And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm.
Silberstein %( and t o Wanda: Jacob is tall and healthy, when he made a fist, six boys could not force it open Zelda Leah, on the other hand, was thin and small prematurely old, and also a perpetual sufferer from heartburn, headaches and back aches ( Slave 55). Wanda is much more like Jacob than like Zelda Leah: she is as strong as a man, and despite the hard labor that is required of her, Wanda is still able to maintain her feminine charm ( Slave 25). One would not think that Zelda Leah would be able to bear Jacob s children due to her small, sickly frame, and even he himself scarcely knew how she did it ( Slave 55). Zeldas motherly duties, which she scorns by not taking care of the children because shes spoiled, only cause her to cry copiously and become more ugly in Jacobs eyes. The narrator sums up Jacobs stance towards Zelda by simply stating that Jacob didnt love her ( Slave 55). Jacob resents the orderly Jewish world. When he returns to Jewish society, the town tries to set him up with a widow. Jac ob considers her too old and syrupy and he muses to himself that I have ceased to be a part of this worldthe match would be good for neither of us ( Slave 111 112). It appears that the random love of the peasants world, which seemed so distasteful to Jacob, is the better option for him. Jacob is constantly disgusted by the disfigured offspring of the peasants adulterous ways, even going so far as to call them the abominations which prompted God to demand the slaying of entire peoples, yet he is ne ver attracted to the Jewish women arranged for his marriages ( Slave 59). Wanda, it seems, is this interesting equilibrium point for Jacob, as if she were the fulcrum of a balance beam: she is an amalgamation of both the Jewish and gentile worlds. In melding the two spheres, she has surpassed binaries. This has repercussions for Jacob, who constantly dwells on the possibility of her conversion and the outcome it
Silberstein %) would have. He vacillates between the legitimate possibility of her becoming a pious Jewish matron and the threat posed to their mortality due to her conversion; he thinks some people will murder them because of it ( Slave 71, 131). When Wanda and Jacob finally have sex, it too leaves him pondering his identity, especially consi dering the contrast of her boundless love for him and the lack of love between Jacob and Zelda. Their physical communion is a strange mixture of love and pain: Wanda had left marks on his body during copulation, and has previously shown her affection by biting him ( Slave 71, 50). A t one point, Wandas words had aroused both passion and disgust in Jacob, a further manifestation of a binary that I see attempting to fuse itself together ( Slave 24). Jacob even finds it difficult to stay away from her on those days the Mosaic law declared her unclean, thereby blurring the boundary between religious restriction and uninhibited lust ( Slave 85). Irving Buchen expounds on this amalgam of religiousness and lust that Jacob feels for Wanda: S inger does not rapidly or irrevocably condemn Jacobs lust. Indeed, referring to the Kabbalah, Singer even argues the near heretical position that lust is of divine origin (157). A fter all, as another critic writes, a wedding is [Singers] preferred s ymbol of fusion of divergences (Golden 27). Buchen similarly concludes, Jacob honors his love of Wanda Sarah by making it one with the love of God (171). A s it turns out, not only is the lust Jacob feels for Wanda divine; their liaison, too, is fate. They complement each other in both the physical and spiritual realms. It becomes apparent that the relationship between Jacob and Wanda is not as random as one would believe. A s it turns out, Wanda predicts Jacobs entrance into her (Polis h) world: she reveals that she has psychic powers. She even casts aside other
Silberstein %* suitors because she knows that Jacob will be hers. Wanda, like Masha in Enemies had foreseen Jacobs arrival and for this reason had refused other men. The truth was that si nce childhood she had been expecting and longing for him ( Slave 202). I previously expounded on Jacobs existence and how it was dependant upon Wanda and her actions. It now seems that the two have been destined for each other throughout eternity, since supernatural laws have brought them together. Not only does Jacob need Wanda to exist, it is by divine fate that he needs her and that she needs him. A s clear as the parallels between Enemies and The Slave are, Biblical parallels wit hin the latter work might be more overt, and must be mentioned. The Jacobs of the Bible and of the Singer novel both undergo drastic changes in identity: in the Bible, Jacob dupes his brother and his father, and eventually comes to be known as Israel, and his sons constitute the twelve tribes. Before this could happen, and before Jacob has the pivotal fight with an ethereal entity, he leads a mostly domestic, isolated life. Jay Michaelson, who pairs Biblical exegesis with gender criticism, calls Jacob th e quintessential femme. He stays home and cooks, hes his mommas favorite (indeed, it is his mother who helped Jacob usurp Esaus birthright), whereas his brother, standing in stark contrast, is a hunter, hairy and manly (21). Jacob of Singers nove l also initially leads a sedentary lifestyle as a scholar, until thrust into a manlier, more labor intensive role as the titular bondsman of The Slave. The crux of Michaelsons argument revolves around the Biblical event with which everyone associates Jacob: his fight with G d, supposedly representing the sexual act according to Kabbalah, which then allows Jacob to submit to the higher power (22). Not
Silberstein %, only does this copulation with G d complete Jacob and make him Israel, a name meaning G d is victorious, but it also leads to the incorporation of femininity within masculine identity. A ccording to Michaelson, it would logically follow that Jacobs relationship with his two wives, Leah and Rachel, [is] a tikkun a cosmic repair or completio n, of A dams relationship with his two wives, Lilith and Eve (21). Michaelson concludes by using a somewhat explicit term from queer theory: Jacob need no longer fear the sexually assertive Leah he can be the agent of Gods action in the world becau se he has learned to bottom, or play the submissive femme and receive G d via male on male intercourse (21, 22). Likewise, Sarah Blacher Cohen, writing about women in Singers work, notes they embody aspects of womanhood he needs to complement his depl eted life. They each restore fragments of his shattered self (From Hens 77). Both critics show that women are integral parts of mens' lives; men require the love, presence, and influence of women in order to become healthy and complete human beings. In The Slave gender roles are not nearly as subverted as they are in Michaelsons reading of Genesis 32; however, similarities do lie in the necessity to pair male and female, Jewish and gentile. The effects of the interactions between the genders, and the simultaneous existences of the women present in both Jacobs and Hermans lives, can be found in the outcomes of the novels, namely progeny. These two novels themselves, I believe, complement each other, ultimately making a perfect whole, just like the fusing of the male and female binary. We can contrast the paths that Jacob and Herman take: the former who moves to Palestine and raises his son, and the latter who disappears into unknown A merica, disregarding his (Jewish) life and his daughter Si nger's male
Silberstein &protagonists often are or become vegetarians and practice a Spinozan 1 0 theology: Jacob lives a life similar to this, while Herman diverges, although not before attempting phases of piety. We can also contrast Herman's incessant references to sec ular writings, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Spinoza, with Jacob's allusions to scripture: these two forms of writing compete for dominance against each other. Wanda, who dies in childbirth, has a son; Y adwiga, who lives on while Herman effectively dies, ha s a daughter. Herman spurns his old life: David Roskies claims that A merica itself will never meet [Hermans] spiritual needs, and he is replaced as the caretaker of his child by Tamara (88). His family is complete without him, and we have to look to T he Slave to see a better example of a male and female union. That Herman's life revolves around the highest numbe r of other people is important. I t takes him three women, and three failed relationships, to ultimately find nothing: he never completes a ti kkun while Jacob, however, finds himself in Wanda. In his incessant traveling, which parallels Hermans jaunts from one borough of New Y ork to another, Jacob meets an emissary from Palestine to whom he tells all his hardships and asks advice. The l earned man tells Jacob, your wife was a gentile and so is your son. The child follows its mother. This is the law. But behind the law, there is mercy. Without mercy, there would be no law let him be brought up as a Jew ( Slave 246). The emissary is a man who knows just how much Mosaic Law to follow and how ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 1 0 The figure of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632 1677) is used througho ut Singers fiction to represent a non mainstream, almost heretical, philosophical stance, as the historical personage was indeed issued a write of kherem a kind of Jewish excommunication
Silberstein much to bend; he simultaneously upholds the law and subverts it, just as Jacob does in communing with Wanda in the first place. Jacob spares his son from the binary filled fate he has suffer ed by relocating to Palestine, a setting that can be called a third space in the novel, devoid of oppressive opposites. Benjamin Eliezer, though, is secure in Jerusalem, lecturing at a Y eshiva, and Jacob had never told him of his mothers [gentile] origi ns. There are truths that must remain hidden. Why divide his spirit? ( Slave 266). A t the end of the novel, Jacob returns to Pilitz in a desire to dig up Wanda Sarahs bones and reinter them in the Holy Land. A lthough Jacob and his wife are reunited in the afterlife, they are not buried where he would have liked; Jacobs wishes are only half fulfilled. Jacob looks for Wandas grave but does not find it. Then he dies. Later, as the townspeople are burying him, they find that Wandas grave has shifted. She was not originally buried in the Jewish cemetery, but now the dead had gathered to take her in. The cemetery itself had ordained it; Sara [sic] was a Jewish daughter and a sanctified corpse ( Slave 286). Randomness yet again meshes with divine fa te. Jacob has never believed he would be buried alongside Sarah, and is unaware that it happens, but G d intervenes a final time, so that in their death they were not divided ( Slave 287). Resolution is not found in Jacob, but in Wanda Sarah: she was b oth Wanda and Sarah, not one or the other ( Slave 235). She embodies all schism and erases those same boundaries through the birth of her son and the shifting of her grave (Malkoff 164). It is Wanda Sarah, the female half, who defines Jacobs life, and in that process, redefines what it takes to make a human and a Jew.
Silberstein &$ If women complete the identities of Singer's male protagonists, what can be said for his female protagonists? This is not a fair question, as Singer has written of only one fe male lead, and furthermore, her identity as a woman is ambiguous. Y entl desires to study the holy books, and she and her father pore over "the Pentateuch, the Mishnah, the Gemara and the Commentaries" ( Collected 149). In order to study the liturgy, and e ven to understand them, Y entl must, due to her position in a patriarchal society, become male: her father even claims that her brilliance derives from her possession of a man's soul. When Y entl questions her father as to why she then has the body of a wom an, her father replies that even "'Heaven makes mistakes'" ( Collected 149). Right from the start, we are presented with a tension of dualities: the physicality of a woman and the spirituality of a man. Like Herman and Jacob, Y entl, who takes the masculine name "A nshel," tries to meet her tikkun (cosmic pairing) via interactions with her love interests. In this case, however, the protagonist exhibits infatuation with both sexes. A n internal dialogue is encountered here, too, as Y entl "warned her self that what she was about to do was sinful"; therefore, tikkunim are not met with ease, and struggles with love lead to struggles with identity (159). It would not be apt to call Y entl bisexual; her interest in Hadass, a woman, seems mostly performativ e. Y entl falls for the other girl to uphold her male appearance, because finding a match is expected of her. Though deflowering Hadass in a strange scene that is obscured by the text of the story itself, Y entl can be said to copulate with A vigdor, her ma le infatuation, via studying. A fter finding out the truth about Y entl's sex, A vigdor finds that "before long the Torah had reunited them," implying that it had done so earlier (165). A nd in another scene, the two "boys" share a
Silberstein &% cigarette: "Occasionally, A vigdor smoked, and A nshel, taking the cigarette from his lips, would have a puff" ( Collected 152). The smoking scene, along with studying, for Y entl, is a replacement for sex; but for A vigdor, at this point unaware of Y entl's femaleness, it merely repres ents male bonding. Y entl reveals her naked body to A nshel, showing that she is indeed corporally female. But physicality, and physical acts like sex, do not interest her Y entl just wants to study. A fter admitting that she married Hadass to be near A vid gor, the latter opines that Y entl just should have married him; but that was never part of Y entl's plan. She tells A vigdor "'I wanted to study the Gemara and the Commentaries with you, not darn your socks!'" (165). To be Jewish for Y entl means to be not female, nor necessarily subscribe to any normative gender, as she proclaims to be neither male nor female. Y entl, though, requires the experiences of both a female and male identity, but ultimately subverts them, and finds a tikkun with herself and with her connection to Jewish liturgy. Despite the marriage and copulation with Hadass being performative acts, Y entl must go through with them to find out what she is not. The formation of her identity is akin to that of Herman and even Edelshtein : they both perform acts of rejection, though Y entl's is more subversive in that she eschews normative gender qualities Not o nly do Singer's characters find ( or attempt to find ) their cosmic pairings, but his works make that attempt as well. No matter what critics think of Singer's inane need to bring closure to The Slave we are presented with a paradigm of discrepancy between Jacob's return to Wanda to re inter her, and Herman's disavowal and subsequent flight from his women; it is in their differences tha t the novels complement each other, and find their own tikkun in the presentation of a variety of Jewish identities. Y entl, though her
Silberstein && decision to flee from home may be a tough one, undertakes it so she may find herself and be herself. In these three tex ts, we are presented with characters who undergo hardships in order to form their identities and find their place in the world, and must do so via interactions with other individuals. Despite reaching different ends, all protagonists suffer their lot so t hat they may finally feel complete and be Jewish in their own way.
Silberstein &' TWO Contrasting Jews: Cynthia Ozicks Envy; or, Y iddish in A merica "Truly a translator is like a prophet." Goethe "Esse est percipi." To be is to be perceived Berkeley The unlucky protagonist, one can aptly call him a schlemiel of Cynthia Ozick's story, "Envy; or, Y iddish in A merica," (1967) reverses Goethe's statement. If only he first had a translator, then the poet Hersheleh Edelshtein would rightly b e recognized as a prophet. It follows, then, that his relationships with others serve to form Edelshtein's identity; either identification through them, i.e. the need of a translator; or identification against them, in the case of his successful rival Ost rover and his friend Baumzweig, another unsuccessful poet, among others. Ozick paints a bleak picture in Envy. A s we see in the title, Edelshtein and Baumzweig are rife with jealousy over their successful rival, Ostrover. The subtitle, Y iddish in A merica, also alludes to the grimness of the languages future, which Ozick's characters foresee, as well as the writer herself. Y iddish faces extinction via apathy. Envy typifies the present, and death the future. The negative atmosphere of the story unfortunately finds bearing in reality. A s if it were a dramatic reenactment, Ozicks story can be applied to the actual state of Y iddish in A merica in its striking resemblance to Y iddish writers who fight amongst themselves but also for the preservation of their
Silberstein &( language. It becomes impossible, then, to talk about Ozicks story without mentioning the zeitgeist within which it was written, and the real people to whom the characters may or may not refer. This is the cornerstone of my approach. The reflection of history in Ozick's story assists in understanding it. The fictional personages of Envy can be read as real Y iddish writers of the period: The character Ostrover was easily identified as Isaac Bashevis Singer, Susanne Klingenstein writes (68). Singer was, and is still, probably the best known writer in the Y iddish language. This can be attributed to his plethora of stories being translated into many languages, most notably for his large population of English readers, and finally to his N obel Prize in 1978. These factors, though resulting in fame and respect, also created rivals. Jacob Glatstein (or Y ankev Glatstein) wrote a scathing review of Singer in 1965, attacking him in a fashion similar to Edelsteins attack on Ostrover in Envy. Klingenstein points convincingly to further parallels in Ozicks story: if Ostrover was so clearly I.B. Singer Baumzweig and Edelshtein also had their real life counterparts Chaim Grade and Jacob Glatstein thought of themselves as possibilities (68) Neal Karlen, in The Story of Yiddish (2008), writes of others' reactions to Singer's fame: "I profoundly despise Singer," Inna Grade, the seventy five year old widow of Chaim Grade, told the New Y ork Times in an article about the Nobel Prize winner's ce ntennial celebrations. Grade, high in the pantheon of Y iddish writers, was barely known to A merican audiences during his lifetime due to a dearth of translations of his work into English the most common plaint of Y iddish masters, real or would be, and th e focus of much of Ozick's "Envy; Or, Y iddish in A merica." (172)
Silberstein &) Cynthia Ozick plead ignorance of Glatsteins feud with Singer and refuted the Edelshtein/ Glatstein connection: he [Edelshtein] was made up! I did not know, when I wrote that story that th ere had been a great fight between Glatstein and Singer, and that Glatstein had written this essay against Singer. I had no idea (Klingenstein 71). Ozick is not to be trusted, and the parallels between these authors and their fictional doppelgngers are key to reading the text. The similarities between the critique of Singer by Glatstein and that of Ostrover by Edelstein remain uncanny, as Klingenstein illustrates. Both Edelshtein and Glatstein criticize their rivals for being widely read by the E nglish speaking populace. Glatstein observes that, non Jewish readers have long been thrilled by supernatural mysteries and are therefore drawn to Singers work (146). His diatribe continues as Glatstein compares Singers work to that of the goyim (gen tiles): Singer is possibly the first Y iddish writer to place his so called heroes on the same level with the heroes in non Jewish literature (146). Singer, it seems, does not write for Jews. By depending on his English translations, Singer becomes an i dolater. In Ozicks story, Edelshtein tells Ostrovers publishing company that the famous story writer didnt exist for you [in Y iddish] (Ozick 866). Eventually, Edelshtein comes to the conclusion that Ostrover is a pagan, a goy due to his panderin g to English readers (Ozick 893). Cynthia Ozick, via Edelshtein, does reference Glatstein at one point in the story (865). Even if the guise of Edelshtein itself does not allude to Glatstein, the circles in which he moves are. Contemporaneous Y iddi sh poets are directly referenced as a whole (Glatstein included), making the story that much more damning and giving it verisimilitude. Edelshteins appeal to a publishing company in search of a translator alludes to this
Silberstein &* isolated circle of poets whom no one knows. This will be explored later, as it also deals with the disparate generations of Jews. Though he ceaselessly attack s his rival, and perhaps because of it, Edelshtein, in a horrible twist of fate, finds himself in two of Ostrovers stories, the titles of which remain unknown to Ozicks readers. Edelshtein is conveyed unto the English reading masses, as he always desired, just not through his own poems. The man Edelshtein hates gives him life; and, more importantly, a literary life. Ostrove rs fictional stories are accurate depictions of Edelshteins literary career, a career defined by failure. The man who Edelshtein once identified himself against, he now identifies through, albeit against his will. Edelshteins fake literary identity, a s a schmuck in Ostovers fiction, is more palpable than his actual one as an untranslated Y iddish poet. One of Ostrovers stories, for which he doesnt need a muse, he needs a butt (and that butt is of course Hersheleh Edelshtein), posits a fictional Edelshtein stuck in a failed Faustian rut (Ozick 871). Which is humorous to think about, as Edelshtein is already a fictional character. In Envy there are layers upon layers of reality reproduction and further reproduction. The Edelsht ein of Ostrovers story, similarly a poet without a translator, petitions Satan to teach him another language because there is no one left in the world that can read his native tongue Zwrdlish. A fter going through French, Italian and others, Satan tell s the poet, its not the language, its you (Ozick 870). Despite being able to write in every language due to Satans blessing, the poet never finds fame; indeed, the same fate has befallen the real Edelshtein. The unlucky poets career reflects Y idd ishs lack of readership: neither has an audience.
Silberstein &, Ostrovers story also hints at something that Edelshtein is reluctant to admit to himself. A lthough conveying, as Janet Cooper calls it, a Jewisher than thou exterior, Edelshtein does not care about saving Y iddish (191). He, like his fictional incarnation in Ostrovers story, just wants to be famous no matter the language he uses. A fter calling others near goyim for their lack of Jewish knowledge, Edelshtein becomes a hypocrite: he re neges, and wished he had been born a gentile (Ozick 875). A lthough never able to find a translator, the protagonist does have some published work. Edelshteins poems are conveyed to the people, and not just via Ostrovers satiric attac ks. Baumzweig, without whom Edelshtein wouldnt exist, publishes the latters work in the periodical, Bitterer Yam or Bitter Sea (Ozick 874) The number of people who read Y iddish publications, however, is another matter. In jest, Baumzweigs wife calls the periodical invisible ink (Ozick 861). Edelshtein himself tells a morbid joke that ties together the dearth of Y iddish readers and physical mortality: There were two editors [of a Y iddish newspaper], one to run the papers of the press and the other to look out the window. The one looking out the window saw the funeral procession passing by and called to his colleague: Hey Mottel, print one less! (Ozick 859). The fact that his audiences found the jokes worthless completes the depressing, moribund status of Y iddish (Ozick 859). Other obscure Y iddish poets, who are Edelshteins only readers, heavily criticize his poems: Zimmerman, Edelshteins cruelest rival rails against him, saying, Why did God give Hersheleh Edelshtein an unfa ithful wife? To punish him for writing trash (Ozick 863). The unfaithfulness of Edelshteins wife and her miscarriages serve to make Edelshtein a symbol of Y iddishs status. Baumzweig and his wife, too, parallel Y iddishs
Silberstein 'decline in their physical deca y (Ozick 880). Their apartment, in which Edelshtein can often be found, also foreshadows Y iddishs fall: dirty mirrors and rusting crystal, a hazard and invitation to cracks, an abandoned exhausted corridor (Ozick 860). Edelshteins barren, childles s life finds reflection in his lack of a readership, his barren popularity. In yet another story, Ostrover again portrays him accurately as a man with a withered organ, a shlimazal (Ozick 863). A lthough Edelshtein and Baumzweig have raged against [Ost rovers] subject matter, which was insanely sexual, pornographic, paranoid, freakish, the real reason Edelshtein hates Ostrover is not due to distaste for his style, but his anger over the insulting, though accurate, way he is portrayed in Ostrovers stor ies, which of course parallels Ozicks own story, which portrays Glatstein and Singer (Ozick 861). Ostrover writes in his fiction of his real affair with Edelshteins wife: Two women loved each other so much they mourned because they could not give birth to one anothers children. Both had husbands, one virile and hearty, the other impotent They agreed to transfer their love for each other into the [healthy] man, and bear the child of their love through him. So both women turned to the virile husband, and both women conceived. But the woman who had the withered husband could not bear her child: it withered in her womb. (Ozick 863, 864) Edelshtein hates Ostrover because, as Cooper points out, his "words impact how Edelshtein sees himself (191). The unwillingness to admit to the truth is the reason for Edelshteins depression. For the same reason Ozicks story took a great deal of flak upon publication: the Y iddishists refused to accept, within themselves, her depressing prediction about the futu re of Y iddish, their precious Mammeloshn The negative
Silberstein '# reception of Envy reveals the tension between older and younger generations over the use of Y iddish and Jewish literature. A ccording to Ozick, she kept her story hidden in a drawer for a year; but, when finally published, it caused an outcry of pain and fury to rip through the Y iddish community (Klingenstein 66). Envy, though, was meant as lamentation, not criticism. Ozick, like Edelshtein, was presiding over a funeral (Ozic k 859). She does not merely represent the depressing fate that has befallen Y iddish; she mourns it, too: [Ozick] was ashamed that her generation had been so incurious about their parents culture (Klingenstein 69). Ozick even goes so far as to compare the apathy that younger Jews feel towards Y iddish to Nazis in the sense that they have all contributed to its demise, a sentiment with which Edelshtein certainly agrees (Klingenstein 69). The negativity surrounding the reception of Ozicks story as a crit icism of Y iddish writers is ill founded. What they, the Jewish cultural elite, hate is not Ozicks depiction of them, but her prescience of the times and her accurate prediction of the death of Y iddish, something they themselves, and Edelshtein, will no t own up to. Envy mirrors the real life tension between the old and the young, which comes to the foreground when Edelshtein beseeches his friend V orovskys niece to translate his work and when he dwells upon his past relationship with a young boy in Russia. His obsession with youth elucidates the destruction of Y iddish, but also unmasks Edelshteins attraction to that [western, Gentile] world (Kauvar 55). The young denote an assimilated position that the old poet wants for his poetry. Edelshtein, in a semi
Silberstein '$ Gustav von A schenbach 1 1 fashion, obsesses over a young boy he once tutored back in Russia, and whose visage manifests in the older mans dreams. The boy has either assimilated to become a citizen of the Soviet Union or dead, in th e ravine at Babi Y ar (Envy 858). Babi Y ar, an act of racial purging perpetrated against Ukrainian Jews by the Nazis in 1941, symbolizes for Edelshtein another instance of destruction haunting not only him, but all of the Jewish people. E delshteins relationship with A lexei is defined by peculiarity. A t times he wants to possess the boy, and at times he wants to be the boy. In Russia, Edelshtein would crouch outside the room, only through the doorway, looking, looking, while A lexei is tutored in Latin, where he heard a beautiful [but] foreign nasal chant of riches. Latin! Dirty from the lips of idolators (Envy 883, 884, emphasis mine). The assimilated Kirilovs, who changed their name from Katz, are treyf (unkosher) but Edelshtein hypocritically treasures them. Y oung A lexeis Latin studies constitute assimilation: the death knell of the Jewish youth and future. While staying at Baumzweigs, Edelshtein has a dream that conflates A lexei and Hannah: one turns into the other. Furth ermore, Edelshtein dreams about A lexei while sleeping in the room of Baumzweigs sons: the two boys, representing the future and subsequent assimilation, are literary boys who wrote their Ph.D. dissertations on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Carson McCullers, non Jewish figures who symbolize the West (Envy 861). ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 1 1 The elderly protagonist of Thomas Manns story, Death in V enic e, Gustav von A schenbach pines over Tadzio, a young Polish boy. Edelshteins obsession parallels Gustavs in the sense that it is not entirely lustful, but rather worshipful and envious: Edelshtein is jealous of the young Russians solid position in li fe, while Gustav is envious of Tadzios mythical Greek like beauty.
Silberstein '% Edelshteins confrontation with Hannah, V orovsky's niece, represents another instance of the tensions between the young and the old, and comprises a climax of the story. He initially meets Hannah in New Y ork at a reading by Ostrover, highlighting that the younger generation adulates him. College students populate Ostrovers reading: young, young! Everyone for Ostrover young! A modern, Edelshtein notes (Envy 869). He re we see Edelshteins jealousy of his famous counterpart; he, too, wants to be read by the younger generations. These young people, of course, read Ostrover in English, which makes his popularity possible in the first place. While Edelshteins identity is comprised by a complete lack of a translator, Ostrovers is comprised by a complete dependence upon his translators. However, Hannah stands apart. Not only can she speak Y iddish, but she also indicates familiarity with Edelshteins poetry. Hannah r epresents a link between the past and the future, Edelshteins potential door to expression. In his desire to indentify through the young, though, Edelshtein succeeds only in identifying against them; Hannah rebukes Edelshtein as old and washed up. Furthe rmore, she successfully establishes Edelshtein and his ilk as others, calling them you Jews (Envy 890). With this utterance, Josephine Knopp states, Hannah separates herself from Jewish history she has joined them, A merica, the world at large (2 4). Hannah herself even delineates the binary between the old and the young. When Edelshtein asks Hannah if shes not a Jew, she responds, Not your kind. Nowadays there have to be kinds? Good, bad, old new Old and new. (Envy 891)
Silberstein '& Edels htein cannot accept this. He presses her further, telling Hannah that shell save Y iddish and be like a Messiah (Envy 892). Hannah, for Edelshtein, designates hope, a phoenix for her generation, which had previously allowed Y iddish to wither in apa thy after nearly perishing in Nazi fires; he sees Hannah as an incarnation of the Future (Envy 879). Unfortunately, this is not the case. The exchange Edelshtein has with Hannah culminates in blows: he slaps her in the face. Elaine Kauvar describe s the fight as being the rage of a father whose daughter has countermanded him; he hits her for wanting to be rid of his generation (57). Kauvar, going further than delineating the young/ old binary, links Edelshtein and Hannah in familial ties. A ltho ugh hostilities typify the relationship between the young and the old, Edelshtein still finds room to identify with Hannah. They both, Sarah Blacher Cohen notes, worshiped the idols of Western Civilization (58, 59). Difference occurs, though, when prid e becomes a factor. Hannah dismisses the old Jewish men, commanding them to all go and die, but Edelshtein embraces her repudiation, and finds meaning in it (Envy 894). In Cohens view, When [Hannah] banishes him from her universalist house of fiction [where he is unfavorably compared to writers like Keats and John Donne], he is forced to embrace his ghetto identity with pride, to view it as a blessing (59). Once again, Edelshteins self identification comes about through the agency of someone he doe s not like, because they are both Jews and writers. A dditionally, her rejection allows Edelshtein to cement his standing as a man of Y iddish letters. The list of competing Jewish writers compiled by Edelshtein, referenced earlier, denotes a nother example that draws distinctions between old and new Jews. When Edelshtein writes a letter to the publishers of Ostrovers story, he claims familiarity with
Silberstein '' the contemporary so called A mer. Jewish writers who are easily published because they writ e in English (Envy 865). The members of the list, whom Edelshtein specifically calls boys and girls, includes Roth Philip/ Rosen Norma/ Melamed Bernie/ Friedman B.J. / Paley Grace/ Bellow Saul/ Mailer Norman (Envy 865). Hannah, someone for whom writing in Y iddish would turn an A merican girl into a refugee, could hypothetically find a place in this list (Envy 873). She may be familiar with Y iddish, and with Edelshteins poetry, but she rejects it, in an asinine manner no less, because it does n ot interest her: I learned [Y iddish], my grandfather taught me, [but] Im not responsible for it, I didnt go looking for it (Envy 892). These Jewish A merican writers, for Hannah, are the New Jews she told Edelshtein about: men and women who typify her Westernized, English speaking ideals. Like Herman Broder of Singers Enemies Hannah forsakes her place in the Jewish world, and abandons herself to the wilds of A merica. Both before and after the futile attempt to obtain Hannah as hi s translator, Edelshtein sets out into the frozen New Y ork wastes. The setting reflects both his destruction and that of Y iddish. In the snow and deserted roads, Edelshteins shoes were infernos of cold, his toes dead blocks. Himself the only life in th e street, not even a cat (Envy 880). He calls Ostrover twice from an outdoor payphone, from a cold, dark landscape, confronting his rival once purposefully, once accidentally. Preceding his juxtaposition to the New Jews, he must again confront the Old Jews. The first time he calls Ostrover he mocks and insults him. The second time, after intending to call V orovsky, he reaches Ostrover again. During this final exchange, Edelshtein tells a story meant to insult Ostrover, but it ends up reflecting on h imself:
Silberstein '( Once there was a ghost who thought he was still alive. Y ou know what happened to him? He got up one morning and began to shave and he cut himself. A nd there was no blood. No blood at all. A nd he still didnt believe it, so he looked in the mi rror to see. A nd there was no reflection, no sign of himself. He wasnt there. But he still didnt believe it, so he began to scream, but there was no sound, no sound at all (Envy 885) Directly after the story, Ostrover hangs up he does not hear E delshteins cries. Indeed, no one does, including Hannah, including his tiny population of Y iddish readers, and including his potential yet out of reach English readers. This story represents Edelshteins vicarious death through Y iddish. A fter the fight with Hannah, Edelshtein confronts what has been a specter throughout Envy, aloofly haunting the story: gentiles. Hitherto, the protagonist has been juxtaposed with all varieties of Jews, namely the assimilated who embrace English, and the Y iddishists who embrace mammeloshn in a death grip. The next morning, Edelshtein makes a final phone call. In this scene, the last one of the story, Edelshtein unleashes all his anger and fear upon the eunuchs voice, the Christian representative (e ither Rose or Lou), the sincere scientific soul sociologists because he agrees with them that some humans should drop dead (Envy 895, 888, 887). Edelshteins rant, slightly chaotic, his claims against the Christians seemingly insane, are rooted in t ruth. His fear of gentiles, which aligns with his criticism of the assimilated Jews, finds validity in several lines of the exchange that revolve around language: Y ou pray in a debased jargon, the voice declares, not the beautiful sacramental Englis h of our Holy Bible (Envy 896). Hannah, Ostrover, the list of A mer. Jewish writers these lines evoke
Silberstein ') them all. Sarah Blacher Cohen makes this connection as well, noting Edelshtein finds them [the anti Semitic insults] even more painful because ma ny Jews themselves [like Hannah] accept such pejorative views of Judaism and unassimilated Jews (60). Edelshtein finds reflection even in the views of racists. Supremely ironic is the Christians suggestion that Jews are a bone in the throat of all man kind, when Y iddish itself is a bone in Edelshteins throat (Envy 896). Even now, the Christian continues, paralleling Hannah, after the good Lord knows how many years in A merica [40 for Edelshtein], you talk with a kike accent. Y ou kike, you Y id (Envy 896). Edelshtein is again put in his place; others relegate him to a debased role, and form his identity for him. English is not for Edelshtein, and it is inimical to the Jews, because through it they lose their identity; or, as Edelshtein wou ld say, forces one to choose between death or death. Which is to say death through forgetting or death through translation (Envy 879). Turning towards Cynthia Ozick's non fiction can link "Envy" back to the historical roots that produced it and which it therefore reflects. A ll these historical factors, along with the previously explored connection with Glatstein's own essay against Singer, enable a more complete understanding of the story. It is in Ozick's essay "Toward a New Y iddish" that we f ind the full impact of "Envy," as it explicates the Jews' use of any language and predicts what might happen to fictional charact ers like Edelshtein and Hannah. Embracing English, Ozick writes, entails [giving] ourselves over altogether to Gentile cultur e and [being] lost to history, but, by modifying English just as Y iddish modified German, Jews can become masters of our own civilization (A & A 177). One can surmise, then, that Hannah will not survive, n or will Ostrovers translations; they
Silberstein '* cater too m uch to the non Jewish, English speaking ideal; they have been autolobotomized out of history (A & A 160) Ozick wrote Toward a New Y iddish just one year after the publication of Envy, and the piece assists in understanding Ozicks fiction, alth ough the essay should not be taken as Ozicks credo, as Elaine Kauvar rightly contends. Sanford Pinsker makes this assertion as well, warning readers not to see her stories as extension[s] of her literary essays (121) I believe that the two forms com plement each other, perhaps are even one and the same: no extension exists. I find their connections obvious. Pinsker and Kauvar are right to a certain degree, and reading Ozicks non fiction is not the only way to read her fiction, but the parallel th emes work to blur the very lines between her essays and her stories. The interplay between what is real (or non fiction) and what is fiction come into question, and they become locked together. Indeed, this is exactly what is accomplished in her fict ion between the interplay of Singer and Ostrover, Glatstein and Edelshtein. Just like the bleak outlook she limns in Envy, Ozick conveys a pessimistic attitude in Toward a New Y iddish (1969). The essay, however, does not have as much of a negativ e outlook as the story. The points Ozick brings up, indeed her entire clarion call to create a New Y iddish, stem from this premise: she feels that assimilation, and the adoption of English (or German in many cases), has not necessarily been a good thing for the Jews. The acquiescence to a Gentile language enabled Freud and Marx, among others, to achieve cultural and social power. Ozick discusses Heinrich Heine: a celebrated German poet, he converted from Judaism to Christianity in order to be mo re widely read and to enjoy a higher standing in
Silberstein ', Germany. But his attempt to get rid of his Jewishness was in vain, and not forgotten: Hitler tried to erase Heines name from the books, and by doing so, he returned Heine permanently to the Jewish people. If he lasts, he lasts for us (A & A 169). If someone as beloved as Heine must return to the Jews through a genocidal fate, Ozick becomes less and less assured of the long term survival even of Freud (A & A 166). Jews who define themselves as writers who happen to be Jewish, rather than Jewish Writers, Ozick believes, are those whom Diaspora most determinedly wipes out (A & A 167). In Edelshteins words, these are the Jewish boys and girls who court amnesia of history and are certain to fade from it the mselves (Envy 879). A merica is a testing ground for Jewish identity, and therefore has a unique position. For one, it occupies a precarious spot because it exists alongside Israel, but also because 50 percent of Jews today grow up speaking English. In her essay, Ozick relays others opinions that A merica is a good Diaspora, but she is not so sure (A & A 161). A s we witness in Envy, A merica embodies the dual threats of assimilation and cloistering, the latter resulting in or beca use of anti Semitism; but both lead to death. What, then, does this hold in store for Edelshtein and for the Jews? To choose between death and death these are not viable options. Edelshtein lives in the past rather than celebrating it and turning into it something new; Hannah repudiates the past and wishes to become something new and entirely different. We cannot condone either of these positions because neither allow for posterity. That this dialectic exists, though, is a testament to Jewish life an d identity. "This tension between coexisting ontologies," writes the critic Miriam Sivan, "is Ozick's domain; this is her concern...one with the other, together yet distinct" ( Belonging 3). "Envy" is merely a recapitulation of past
Silberstein (millennia, and it is h ere, in intertextual dialogue with life, with coexisting identities, that the story finds relevance as fiction. A s I have previously mentioned, the Y iddish community reacted poorly to the publication of Envy. Initially negative, the reception soon turned positive, culminating in Ozicks win of the Jewish Heritage A ward for her collection The Pagan Rabbi, which contains Envy; or, Y iddish in A merica. Susanne Klingenstein points out, though, that fuller restitution was within re ach (72). Certain respected Jewish scholars tapped Cynthia Ozick as a candidate to contribute new translations of Y iddish poems to be published in the Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse (1987); and, fortuitous enough, they tasked Ozick with translating none other than Jacob Glatsteins poetry. Ozicks act of translation constitutes another example of reflection, of life and literature linking, of the ties between fiction and reality. New life came to Jacob Glatstein not only in the Penguin Book of Mode rn Yiddish Verse, but earlier in the guise of Edelshtein as well. Edelshtein, Glatstein; Ostover, Singer all these men may die and be forgotten, but there will always be fictional counterparts and archetypes. A nd although we can decry the cloistering of the Y iddishists and the assimilation death drive of Hannah (and maybe Freud and Heine), we cannot deny their palpable effects on the Jewish world and consciousness, nor our need to study it in our fiction, or doubly in our non fiction too, if your name is Cynthia Ozick.
Silberstein (# CONCLUSION Meeting A merican Demands: a Look at Saul Bellow "Write! and your self seeking text will know itself better than flesh and blood." Hlne Cixous "I am Mani Leyb, whose name is sung / In Brownsville, Y ehupets and fart her, they know it" Mani Leyb, "I A m" It is interesting to think of the status of the three Y iddish greats, I. L. Peretz, Sholom A leichem and Mendele Mokher Sforim and the zeitgeist of their era (roughly 1835 1917) in Eastern Europe, and how they each reflect it. Ken Frieden says the three classic authors do not possess independent voices; their work resonates together in moments of harmony and dissonance (1). This triumvirate, and this one voice of a certain time and place though variegated and a t times disagreeable later repeats itself in a new North A merican era, with A merican Jews writing about their positions in the New World. The above quote from Mani Leybs poem "I A m" is a perfect example of the way A merican Jewish writers connect to this past, but also retain an individualized, unique self. Mani Leyb was born in T he Ukraine, but moved to New Y ork and kept writing in Y iddish; much like Isaac Bashevis Singer, he bridges the continents, and especially in this poem. The connection to the Ol d World, and an allusion to Sholom A leichem's code name for Kiev, "Y ehupets,'' is paired with the neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn where he and many Jews immigrated. The title of the poem, "I A m," its overt self referential theme, and its intertext uality with other Jewish fiction, shows us that the nation of A merica and the language of Y iddish are integral components of Leyb's identity
Silberstein ($ and of modern Jewish literature. Leybs statement that his name is known farther is an optimistic prediction of the Jewish future, as Ozick certainly knows his name, as do I; the poet connects to his past, and then calls for us to do the same. Charles Reznikoffs English language poems make for an excellent parallel, as the Brooklyn born Jew, though not an immigran t, writes of his parents Russia. The themes of a Jewish tongue, the need for a connection to the past, and finding a place in A merica are integral to this thesis. Looking to the designations of the Grandfather, Son and Grandson of Y iddish literature (Me ndele Mokher Sforim, Sholom A leichem, and, I. L. Peretz), it is easy to find three other greats who represent the new milieu of A merica: Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud fill these shoes. Charles A ngoff and Meyer Levin, in The Rise of American Jewish Literature (1970), make this very prediction: The Jewish authors will come. They always come when material calls them. A nd it is not at all unlikely that the next fifty years will see a flowering of Jewish literature 1 2 especially in the novel for m, that will rival the Jewish literature that flourished in the now destroyed community of Eastern Europe. It is not at all beyond the possibility that we will have our own local and universal artists, our own Mendele Mocher Sforim and Y L. Peret z and S holom A leichem. (17) Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud, whom A ngoff and Levin directly reference as a group at one point, are the descendants of the three Y iddish greats. We can use these groups of three to mark the progression of modern Jewis h voices by their ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 1 2 The phrase a flowering of Jewish literature in A merican fiction is perhaps a reference to the work The Flowering of Yiddish Literature, written in 1964 by Sol Liptzin, which docume nted the rise of the Y iddish literary greats.
Silberstein (% geographic locations and by the themes on which they focus. 1 3 These latter three were of the first generation of Jews to experience relative privilege; they were all born in North A merica, the sons of hard working immigrants. What is per haps most important about these men might not actually be their fiction about contemporary Jewish A merican life though that facet is quite important but that their writing focuses on Europe, World War II and sometimes Israel; in short, things they haven' t fully experienced, but feel compelled to deal with through their fiction. 1 4 A s I have mentioned in the introduction, the titular protagonist of Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet, is a character who encounters all these realms. Sammler is a Polish refugee from the Second World War who lives in A merica, and at one point he travels to Israel to report on the Six Day War; he cannot sit idly by while the Jewish people face another threat to their existence. The protagonist singularly encompasses some o f the defining moments of modern Jewish history: The Shoah, characters attempting A merican assimilation, and solidarity with the Jewish state. Sammler, whose name means ''collector'' in German, aptly collects all these important events into one lifetime, just like Jacob of The Slave must collect women to form his identity. The editors of the Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology write similarly of Bellow: "A lthough the marks of this identity [a Jewish one in the diaspora] are too variegated, too dispersed, to be found in any single writer, Saul Bellow has often seemed to epitomize them" ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 1 3 This A merican group is of course not the only major center for the modern Jewish voice. Israelis, perhaps because they do not live in exile do not appear to feel the need to write about A merica in the way A merican Jews write about Israel. 1 4 One of Peretzs genetic descendent s, the prolific French writer Georges Perec, who, like Bellow, though slightly detached from the Holocaust, still covers it in his fiction.
Silberstein (& (Chametzky, et al., 748). Bellow is a modern Singer, whose "novels and stories reveal an unsettled imagination, faring constantly between the European past and th e A merican present" (Chametzky, et al., 613). Both writers are aware of the necessity to visit the Jewish past and connect it with their present; therefore, Holocaust literature can be written by those who have not gone through it Ozick's The Shawl, Sing er's Enemies Bellows Mr. Sammlers Planet Foers Everything is Illuminated but write about it because it circulates a people's culture and thoughts. Jews write about the past because it must be written That is why Isaac Babel similarly wrote about p ogroms, despite being a well off Russian citizen. That is why Kafka's work has a feeling of entrapment and impending doom, which almost foreshadows the death of his family in the gas chambers. Or, as Ozick says, like me, they dream old nightmares of the czars because they are Jews (A & A 160). There is a Jewish psychosis of persecution, passed on from one generation of writers to the next. The Holocaust and Pogroms are facets of the Jewish past that still haunt us. Did the same drive that compelled Kaf ka and Sholom A leichem to write about a new A merica also compel Roth, Bellow and Malamud to write about past Eastern European Jewish life, though these subject matters were not fully known to their respective authors? A nd, more importantly, why were these specific subjects chosen? This thesis has explored two different yet wholly A merican and Jewish writers who identify in the same way. Singer, though of the "old school" of Mendele, Peretz and A leichem, bridges the gap, being the most famous writer of the wave of Y iddish speakers who came to A merica, but he was one of the last of his kind. Though he had first hand experience of the Old World, he also had experience of the New, and this is appropriately reflected in his fiction; Singer is the real life analog of Sammler, who follows the
Silberstein (' wanderings of the modern Jew. The Jews now find themselves firmly situated in A merica, just as the Y iddish giants were situated in the Old Country. Ozick (one of these ''situated"), in her prose and non fiction, celebra tes the "old school," yet is cognizant of her place in the New, and of A merica's Jewish youth, who by virtue of their births on A merican soil pose a threat to the survival of Y iddish language and culture. Can we find a synthesis? Y es, and that synthesis is Saul Bellow. A s Ozick gives fictional life to Singer and Glatstein in the guises of Ostrover and Edelshtein, Saul Bellow gave something a little more to Singer: it was he who translated "Gimpel the Fool," thereby propelling the man from the Old Co untry into the A merican, English speaking spotlight, eventually culminating in Singer's Nobel Prize in 1978. Everyday I grow fonder of Bellow, more impressed with his place as a Jew and a North A merican (he was born in Canada) and, of course, with his ach ievements as a writer. In studying Jewish A merican fiction this whole year, I feel that I have been lead to Saul Bellow. It is Bellow, also, who was a partial influence for the creation of Philip Roth's fictional giant of literature, E. I. Lonoff, who th en influenced Roth's fictional doppelgnger, Nathan Zuckerman, in 1979's The Ghost Writer. Like Singer, Bellow has become a figurehead in the Jewish A merican literary field, as his person is fictionally proliferated throughout the canon. Is he our A meric an Kafka, another massive figure Philip Roth re created? Bellow would be the ideal progeny of the "old country" which Ozick romanticizes, yet also recognizes as a marginalized, unique sub stratum: Bellow is perhaps an example of one of Ostrover's translat ors, a "cultural hermaphrodite" comfortable in both Y iddish and English (Envy 867). His presence and output, though, are resounding triumphs, while Ozick, and even more so the whole milieu of
Silberstein (( Y iddish A merican poets she fictionalizes, remains significan tly less popular. Saul Bellow maintains a solid position in both A merican or "Christian" culture and also Jewish culture, and can show his skills in many places: his "assimilated'' work, Henderson, the Rain King, a novel which explores a WA SPs sojou rn to A frica, for example, and his short fiction. But he is equally, if not more, recognized for his Jewish work: Herzog and Mr. Sammler's Planet are good examples. The titular protagonist of the former novel, whose first name is Moses, perhaps parallels Bellows own struggle as a Jew to find purchase in A merica. More important than the possible biographical correlation is that this theme repeats itself throughout Bellows fiction. 1 5 Moses has a house in the Berkshires, which is the symbol of his strugg le for a solid footing in White A nglo Saxon Protestant A merica ( Herzog 300). A s Sammler traveled the world, Herzog travels A merica, fluctuating between New Y ork, Chicago and a home in rural Ludeyville, a WA SP haven that he later sells. Herzog, however, is uncomfortable, and attempts to free himself from A merican bondage by writing letters to Spinoza, Nietzsche and General Eisenhower, fruitless attempts at connecting to the past, but attempts nonetheless. Wirth Nesher notes that his consistent utterances of Hebrew, like his letters, serve to challenge the Emersonian individual I with the Mosaic collective I, the Hebrew Heneni [here I am]! and therefore identify as a Jew amidst gentiles ( English 120). Herzog, like Edelshtein, and like Ozick hersel f via the Y iddish within her English language works, all utilize a Jewish tongue to define themselves. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + 1 5 Charlie Citrine and V on Humboldt Fleisher of Humbolts Gift (1974) are, like Herzog, erudite, literary Jews trying to find a place in WA SPy A merica.
Silberstein () A long with translating Singer, and his fictional representations of Jews struggling for a place in A merica, work which places him firmly in the "Jewi sh" world, Bellow and his friend Isaac Rosenfeld wrote a parody, in Y iddish, of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. A lfred Prufrock" while in graduate school. Ruth Wisse writes that these two viewed the anti Semite's poetry as a challenge to the Jews: like Wagner and Henry James before him, Eliot could have been thinking, "look what I can do in English, my native tongue; look at my avant garde style; look at the allusions I can draw to greater European culture, which is alien to you. These thoughts would not only belie an ignorance of the modernist Y iddish and English poets of A merica (of which Glatstein and Reznikoff are respective examples), but also an underestimation of the Jewish will to conquer not just English, but wider A nglo culture, and to recrea te it anew, in their own way; that is to say, in a Jewish way. Wisse concludes: "the Y iddish parody [of Prufrock] is packed with enough Jewish national religious historical imagery to remind the upstart Christian of what constitutes true cultural resonanc e" ("Language" 130). Bellow's translation of Isaac Singer's "Gimpel the Fool" in 1953 needs to be mentioned as an important sign of cultural continuity, along the same lines of Ozick's fictional recreation of the Y iddish Nobel laureate, or her transl ations of Glatstein. Hana Wirth Nesher, in her book Call it English can sum it up better than I can: Bellow's relation to Singer exemplifies a pervasive feature of Jewish A merican literature. For Bellow, Singer serves as a point of departure, as an or igin or authentic past that has been tragically annihilated in Europe, and that in A merican Jewish history has largely been abandoned in the
Silberstein (* drive to assimilate; Singer can be evoked for the sake of some continuity with a collective identity other than Chr istian A merica. (107) With the translation of Singer, Bellow is not only able to directly connect to a Jewish past, but also to enable the English speaking Jews of A merica to do so as well. This is, of course, what Ozick has done in her translations of Y ankev Glatstein: allowed young Jews without knowledge of Y iddish to enter the Jewish past. It is worth repeating Max Rosenfelds quote: Without a background of A merican Y iddish literature, contemporary writing about A merican Jews is disconnected from a vital part of its own past. Without this background, a distorted picture results a record of Jewish experience with a gap that will hurt the self understanding of A merican Jews. It cannot be omitted it is a link in a long chain (24, 25). Bellow and Ozick show that the past is not past, and must be consistently explored via fiction or other avenues of literary production, such as translation. In addition to the parodic poem, Bellow wrote an essay a couple years before his death about his coming of age in A merican literature through writing in English, his attempt to be A merican, and how it was viewed as a surprise by a gentile audience: "When I first made my appearance, the reception I got was a little bit like Dr. Johnsons description of dogs who walked on their hind legs, or lady preachers" (Blessed). I am reminded of Babel's young Jewish protagonist in "The Story of My Dovecote" (1925), who uses Pushkin, an example of Russian/ Christian culture, as a ticket into mainstream society. We see a striking difference between Bellow and the Russian writer and his protagonist: their violent reminders that they are indeed Jews, whereas Bellow and his protagonists struggle to find their place in A merica, a somewhat more hospitable location. The
Silberstein (, charact er suffers through a pogrom and Babel was himself summarily executed. Whether or not Babel is thorough ly celebrated is up for debate Cynthia Ozick believes he should be on the same plane as Kafka (she is crazy). What we can be sure of, though, is this: Babel and his protagonists yearned to be recognized by and live in both the gentile and Jewish worlds. Saul Bellow succeeded in this endeavor. He won the Nobel Prize in 1976 and his numerous National Book A wards for both his ''assimilated'' and "Jewish" work alike. Guttmann writes that "Bellow's achievement is the literary climax of a social process," which is to say the process of assimilation, acculturation, and the overcoming of the Jewish and gentile binary (12). A ll of Bellow's oeuvre stands as a s imultaneous example of Jewishness and of meeting the demands of gentile culture this is how Bellow's literary identity is defined. It is true that many Jewish writers did not grow up speaking Y iddish like Bellow and Singer, nor have much knowledg e of Hebrew, and even Babel felt secure in expressing his Jewishness in the Russian language. But can we place a value judgment on that? A re Philip Roth or Franz Kafka less Jewish than Bellow? Of course not. If this thesis proves one thing, let it be th at a multiplicity of Jewish identities exist and are not hierarchical, but that examining ones Jewishness is a prerequisite. Bellow is, of course, dead, and may he rest in peace. But what legacy has he left us? What legacy have Singer, Roth and Oz ick left us? What legacy has Yiddish left us? I have yet to completely work out my feelings for Michael Chabon, as was the case for contemporary readers upon the publication of Ozick's "Envy" or even of Singer's so called blasphemous portrayals of dybbuk s and Jews with loose morals. Like him or not, Chabon represents today; and though Ozick is still writing, I do not feel that her concerns
Silberstein )are Chabon's or even mine. But this is what the writers of all three Jewish A merican generations share: Just to sp ite himself, because spiting himself, spiting others, spiting the world is the pastime and only patrimony of Landsman and his people and they really are his people, as Landsman simply means fellow Jew (Chabon 11). 1 6 Bellow writes in spite of all, and so do Ozick and Singer, so that they may find themselves. The predilection to discuss struggle in fiction, and especially Jewish fiction, is a telling sign. If I have shown, in both my first chapter and my conclusion, that merely to find a voice was, for the Jews, a difficult task, how could I not focus on the way characters find their identities? Singer's need to write about pogroms and the Holocaust, Ozick's lamentation of the death of Y iddish: these can be compared with the writers' own struggles a s Jews. Singer, as did many Jews, lost family in the Shoah, as did many others; Ozick, though not experiencing harrowing circumstances, feels compelled to write about them. One can say, however, that for Ozick the destruction of Y iddish is almost as haun ting as physical death. It is no surprise that she also focuses on her and her characters tenuous positions as Jews amongst a gentile nation, writing in a Christian language, a personal struggle in itself. Bellow and Ozick must also look into the Jewish literary past for muses, just as Singer was inspired by the timelessness of shtetl life. It comes as no surprise that fictional characters face many tribulations, and even formulate identities therein, as that is simply the nature of life and the lives o f the Jews. Y iddish has not yet said its last word, Isaac Singer said during his Nobel acceptance speech. A s long as Jews write, Y iddish will not die. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++ + # ( +./0/+12034+/325670+823579:20/0;+<7=!>6+?970!8/3+=0!5704+/@>2+A5!@!B7>+567+ >A03/97+CD/3E>9/33F+!3+670+$--%+32"7@4+ !"#$%!'()& 4+=6!86+E75/!@>+567 +@!"7>+2G+ <7=>+!3+H!733/+/3E+I7=+<70>7;J +
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