Unifying elements in European Jewish fiction, 1890-1945 : between disillusion and destruction
This study seeks to identify and describe the characteristic elements of European Jewish fiction during the period 1890-1945. Writings that deal with overtly religious themes or which have Zionist publicistic tendencies have been excluded and emphasis is placed on works with settings that are sim- ilar to those to be found in contemporary European fiction by non-Jewish writers. In order to provide a broad comparison, the study incorporates representative literary material by Jews from both Western and Eastern intellectual traditions, and includes texts in the three major languages of artistic expression in these communities: German, Yiddish, and Hebrew. On the basis of this material, it is argued that, in three respects at least, there is an identifiable unity in secular Jewish writing. Firstly, there is a thematic preoccupation with thwarted idealism, which is elaborated in a complex interaction among such themes as social alienation, ambivalence in interpersonal relationships, political altruism and impotence. Secondly, there is a consistent treatment of the characterisation of women, the devel- opment of their relationships to men, and the role of the family. Finally, there is a special reliance on the literary device of irony, in both its verbal and situational forms. The introductory chapter provides historical background and gives a general outline of the thesis. Subsequent chapters are organised as a sequence of thematic and stylistic comparisons; firstly between represen- tative texts from Eastern and Western Jewish communities and finally between the writings of a Jewish and a non-Jewish author, in an analysis of the use of irony in the works of Siegfried Kracauer and Thomas Mann. The German texts studied are Der Weg ins Freie by Arthur Schnitzler, Junge Frau von 1914 by Arnold Zweig, Kafka's Das Schlofl, Georg and Ginster by Siegfried Kracauer and Die Flucht ohne Ende by Joseph Roth. The Yid- dish writings are Di mishpokhe Karnovski and Khaver Nakhmen by I.J. Singer, Tsvishn emigrantn, Nokh Alemen and Mides-hadin by Dovid Bergelson and Di gas by Yisroel Rabon and the Hebrew texts are Nokhah hayam and Hayey nisu'im by David Vogel.