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January 10, 1964 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-01-10

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Friday, January 10, 1964—THE DETROIT JEWISH NEW S-40

Henry James' Anti-Semitism Exposed
by Literary Critic Maxwell Geismar

Maxwell Geismar, the bril- erary imagination increasingly
liant literary critic who ranks strongly from Henry James and
among the very best of our Edith Wharton to T. S. Eliot
historians, who has devoted his and Ezra Pound—from the dis-
talents to evaluations of Amer- possessed, alienated side of the
ican literature, has made his `Old Republic,' I mean, which is
major contribution to literary hardly ever mentioned as such
criticism with his latest work, in the criticism of the Jacobite
"Henry James and the Jaco- cult; and from a diseased lit-
bites," published by Houghton erary spirit which was project-
ing its own impotence upon an
Mifflin Co., Boston.
In this most authoritative obvious scapegoat.
James' prejudices are reflect-
work he brings us to the very
root of James' prejudices, to an ed again, as Geismar indicates,
understanding of the famous in "Roderick Hudson."
Then, dealing with "The Am-
author's anti-Semitism.
Henry James had become the bassadors," Geismar charges in
king of writers, the accepted a footnote: "In the Jamesian
ruler in his literary domain. domain of antique-collecting, it
Few, however, have hitherto appears that the Jews have all
dared to expose him. Geismar the valuable pieces, for which
had accomplished the task, and the noble Christians must 'Jew
his five years' efforts in gather- them down.' "
James' "The Golden Bowl"
ing his data, in collecting the
facts, in uncovering the preju- essay contains the reference to
dicial tones in James' works, "the touch of some mystic rite
make the new Geismar criti- of old Jewry," and Geismar con-
cism one of the immensely demns it as being a "back-
powerful critical works in ground of Jewish antiquarian-
ism, or of Oriental fertility,
American literature.
Uncovering the central duplicity and guile."
Geismar takes exception to
flaw in James' "The Awk-
James' resort to "the little
ward Age," Geismar charges
swindling Jew" in "The
that "here James bore down
Golden Bowl."
more heavily on what has
Geismar debunks James' bias
been only the prevailing and
`polite' anti-Semitism of his in "The American Scene." He
class and, his period." It is shows how James has derided
in this novel that James re- the Jewish immigrants and
states that "by contrast, Theo-
ferred to "the Jew man, so
gigantically rich," and Geis- dore Dreiser, as the spokesman
mar poses the question: for the new immigrant strains
"Wasn't the concept of the in American culture, would rec-
Jew-man himself, 'so gigan- ognize, accept, identify with
tically rich,' another night- and celebrate his own 'lowly'
and 'alien' and outcast social
mare symbol"
Geismar states at this point: origins." Geismar proceeds to
"This 'Jew man,' who is also state: "Meanwhile, in New
physically deformed, figures in York's East Side, Henry James'
the works of the American lit- worst fears are confirmed, since

King David Depicted in Role of
Psalmist, Warrior, Molder of Two
States, in Novel by Louis de Wohl

Hungarian-born Louis de
Wohl, who became a renowned
writer in Germany but left the
country for Great Britain when
Hitler came to power, author of
several highly acclaimed novels,
has written a well-motivated
story, "David of Jerusalem,"
which has been published by
J. B. Lippincott Co. (E. Wash-
ington Sq., Philadelphia 5, Pa.).
He died a few days after he had
completed the manuscript for
this interesting novel.
Splendidly written, ably trans-
lated from the German by Elisa-
beth Abbott, this novel is, in the
main, true to the Biblical se-
quences of the warrior king who
succeeded in molding Israel and
Judah into a single state.
* * *
While he followed very closely
and almost meticulously the Bib-
lical accounts, deWohl took the
natural novelist's license in pre-
senting the case about the great
hero of ancient Israel.
The story in "David of Jerusa-
lem" commences with an act of
incredulous daring— David
crushing a lion with sheer per-
sonal strength after having hit
the lion with a stone from the
leather sling he was later to
use against Goliath of the Phil-
istines.
Then came the visit from the
prophet Samuel who dipped his
hair in balsam—an anointment
that puzzled David but which was
used time and again to impress
him with his importance that
he • had been chosen for king-.
ship.
David is at once presented
as a master at his harp and as
a singer of songs. The Psalms
accredited to him are quoted
frequently. From the very be-
ginning of the deWohl story the
Songs of David are introduced:
"What is man that thou art
mindful of him? or the son of

man that thou visitest him ..."
"Thou hast crowned him
with glory and honor; and hast
set him over the works of thy
hands."
David's singing and his harp
playing become known at the
court. He is summoned by King
Saul, who becomes moodier as
time progresses. Saul becomes
jealous of him very early.
When David offers to fight
Goliath and meets Saul again,
he is not recognized until he
is reminded about the harp
playing.
Then come feud after feud,
jealous pursuit of David by Saul
who wants to kill the young
man he suspects of seeking his
crown.

Naturally, David's love affairs
play a great part in the deWohl
story, but the infatuations are
treated with dignity.
Similarly, David's relation-
ships with his sons are described
as fatherly. Although they trans-
gress, while Absalom is seek-
ing to dethrone his father, and
the others also are involved in
court intrigues, David never-
theless shows his love for them.
To the very last, it is David
the singer who emerges in this
fine novel as a king who loves
his people. And when he finally
names Solomon, his son by Bath-
sheba, to be his successor, he
admonishes him to build a Tem-
ple. It is as a man of God, as
a believer in the divine spirit,
that David is delineated in this
novel.
The late Dr. Louis de Wohl
added glory to his career as an
;..uthor of Biblical novels with
"David of Jerusalem." It is a
commendable work, and it at-
tests to the author's mastery
of the story he turned into a
good novel. —P. S.

Impressive Collection of Wisdom
in Greenberg's 'Art of Living'

Rabbi Sidney Greenberg of
Philadelphia, already known
for his earlier works, "A Treas-
ury of C o f o r t" and "A
Modern Treasury of Jewish
Thoughts," enhances his status
as a compiler of wise sayings
and as anthologist with his
newest work, "A Treasury of
the Art of Living," published
by Hartmore House (410 Asy-
lum St., Hartford, Conn.).
The many hundreds of selec-
tions from the sayings and writ-
ings of some of the world's
greatest scholar s, thinkers,
philosophers and scientists, in-
cluding rabbis and Jewish
teachers, form a most impres-
sive work.
In the 86 themes incorpor-
ated in 11 chapters, this volume
contains expressions on reli-
gion, art, science, happiness,
humility, love, home building,
belief and reward, democracy
and tolerance, adversity and
hope.
The art of giving, the elo-
quence of silence, the perils of
wealth and poverty, and scores
of other topics are included.
The list of great people
quoted here includes the Baal
Shem, Emerson, Prof. Iles-
chel, George Eliot, Stephen
Zweig, Israel Lipkin, and
many, many others.
Moses Maimonides, the Kotz-
ker Rebbe, and other Jewish
authorities are among those in-
cluded with their important ob-
servations and wise sayings.
The Talmud is quoted fre-
quently on reward and punish-
ment and many other subjects.
There are Yiddish and He-
brew proverbs, the Bible is
quoted and traditional views on
major subjects will be found
here.
There is one fault with this
There is another devastating volume: usually every anthol-
condemnation of James' bigo- ogy of this nature contains an
tries, in which Geismar thus
shows how "the great James
cult" is rooted in prejudices.
To quote Geismar:

these new Americans were not
only gross and greasy, but ap-
parently they were almost all
Jewish. 'There is no swarming
like that of Israel when once
Israel has got a start, and the
scene here bristled, at every
step, with the signs and sounds
immitigable, unmistakable, of a
Jewry that had burst all
bounds.' He went on to describe
this 'New Jerusalem' in terms
which were even more lurid.
He remembered the 'dark, foul,
stifling Ghettos' of - European
cities, while the New York
whirlpool testified only to a
`Jerusalem disinfected,' filled
everywhere with 'insistent, de-
fiant, unhumorous, exotic faces.'
Unhumorous: and here this
portly, well - g r o o m e d, con-
strained, fastidious, supersensi-
tive 'Anglo-American' tourist
deprived the immigrants of per-
haps their greatest single
spiritual resource: the Jewish
humor itself."
It is in such powerful
fashion that Geismar tears
apart the bigotry of an author
so widely acclaimed. Geismar
continues: "In one of those
extended passages of im-
agery, so much praised by a
later generation of formalist
poet-critics, he compared 'the
Hebrew conquest of New
York'—the alien children, the
alien old people swarming
everywhere in those streets,
all for the purposes of 'race
rather than reason'—to some
species of snakes or worms
who, 'when cut into pieces,
wriggle away contentedly and
live in the snippet as com-
pletely as in the whole.' " Is
it any wonder that Geismar
is so outraged by the bias of
"the king" who needed to be
shorn of his crown of in-
decency?

"Proceeding south . . . in
the later sections of 'The Amer-
ican Scene,' James delivered,
quite majestically from his own
orotund and pontifical pres-
ence, his commentary on the
race problem. For he had never
before met the 'African types'
that he now began to encounter,
such as the group of 'tatterde-
malion darkies' who lounged
and sunned themselves at one
of the railroad stations quite
within his range . . . Thus the
`musing moralist' (shades of
John Brown) has become the
tactful mind, which feels no
`urgency' — seeing at a glance
the true nature of the Southern
Negro, realizing then the error
of the unfortunately deluded
Northern mind; joining perhaps
in its own musing way the
beastlike Negro to the low
aliens, the swarming Jews who
had taken over his country: no
indeed, James felt no urgency
to preach southward even a
sweet reasonableness about the
Negro question. (I translate
these Jamesian passages exact-
ly, perhaps repetitiously, be-
cause the high gloss and deli-
cate sensitivity of his later
prose may sometimes obscure
the real meaning—the vulgar
and trite prejudices — of his
modulated sentences.) Shades
of the whole Abolitionist move-
ment! Perhaps this was Henry
James's most profound betrayal
of his democratic American
heritage—since it had been also
the deepest social experience,
presumably, of his own youth."
Thus we have a devastating
portrayal of the mind of a great
writer who turned bigot and
hater of men. Geismar renders
a great service to American
culture by exposing the arch-
bigot Henry James.

index of authors quoted with
the dates of their births and
passing. This is lacking here.
In its totality, Rabbi Green-
berg's is a most interesting and
very valuable book that will be
helpful to student s, public
speakers and those in search of
views on subjects they are pri-
marily interested in. "A Treas-
ury of the Art of Living" will
enhance every library, public
and private.

Hebrew Corner

Port of Haifa

Haifa is the second largest city in
the country, and the port of Haifa
is the largest port of Israel. Through
it come all the immigrants and tour-
ists and from it are sent most of
the agricultural and industrial ex-
ports of the country.
The number of inhabitants of Haifa
and its suburbs reach 250,000. The
city is divided into three main areas:
the Lower City and the Mifratz,
Hadar HaCarmel, and Mount Carmel.
The Lower City is a main center for
shipping, banking, foreign trade,
wholesale trading, and here, too, is
the main port. The Mifratz is the in-
dustrial area. Hadar HaCarmel, on
the hillside, is a residential center
and business area. On Mount Carmel
are residential quarters, hotels and
public parks. Here is the last stop
of the "Carmelite," a subway cable
train that connects Mount Cannel
with the Lower City.
Looking from Mount Carmel to the
port, you see a beautiful view—ships
are tied to the docks, flying flags of
various nations. In the night, the port
is lit up and the onlooker sees an
exceptionally beautiful scene.
In the Port of Haifa, that was
opened in 1933, are employed thou-
sands of workmen and it serves as
the main port of the country. In 1962,
3 million tons of freight was handled
through the port, besides oil. The
work reaches its peak in the months
of January through March, the citrus
fruit export season.
Close to the port were erected ship
repairing installations. In the nearby
area are also cold storage plants,
granaries, potash storehouses, giant
oil tanks and chemical storing in-
stallations.
This port, together with the other
ports of the country belongs to the
"Israel Port Authority," whose man-
ager is General Haim Laskov, pre-
viously the Chief of Staff to the
Israel Defense Forces.

Translation of Hebrew Corner.
Published by Brith Ivrith Clamith,
Jerusalem.

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