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July 13, 1979 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-07-13

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, July 13, 1919

28

7 Nobel Laureates in Literature

FRANK PAUL

and His ORCHESTRA
DUO's — TRIO's

From Jewish
Cultural News

SOLOISTS

557-7986

The first Jew to be
awarded the Nobel Prize for

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Literature was Paul Johann
Ludwig Heyse (1830-1914).
Heyse received the prize in
1910.
He was born in Berlin to a
Jewish mother and a Chris-
tian father. He had no
interest in his Jewish back-
ground and although he be-
came one of the outstanding
and most controversial fig-
ures in late nineteenth cen-
tury German literature,
Heyse is hardly read today,
except by students of Ger-
man literature. He wrote
tales in verse and novels,
the best known of the
former was "Der Salaman-
der" (1867) and of the latter
"Kinder der Welt" (1873) on
religious and social prob-
lems and "Im Paradies"
(1875) about artistic life in
Munich.
Both parents of the
French philosopher
Henri Louis Bergson
(1859-1941), the next
Jewish winner, in 1928,
were Jewish.
Bergson was born in Paris
where he became a math-
ematical genius before mov-
ing into the field of philos-
ophy. At the age of 40,
Bergson was appointed pro-
fessor of philosophy at Col-
lege de France. He de-
veloped his theory of the vi-
tal, continuous and genera-
tive impulse of the universe
and wrote his thesis on time
and free will.
Bergson was attracted to
Catholicism which he con-
ceived as being the con-
summation of Judaism, but
he never converted, prob-
ably because of his desire to
maintain his identification
with his own people, perse-
cuted in a Europe plagued
by anti-Semitism.
When France surren-
dered' to Nazi Germany,
Bergson returned all his de-
corations and awards to the
Vichy government, reject-
ing their offer to exclude
him from the decrees
against the Jews and when
the time came, even though
he was extremely ill at the
age of 82, he got up from his
sickbed and reported to-
gether with the other Jews

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for deportation. He died a
few weeks later.
It was 30 years before a
Jew won again. Boris
Leonidovich Pasternack
(1890-1960) was awarded
the 1958 Nobel Prize for
Literature.
The son of the painter
Leonard Pasternack and
the pianist Rosa Kaufman,
Pasternack recalls how his
father sought Jewish motifs
in art. Leonard Pasternack
visited Palestine in 1922
and corresponded with his
son. In one of his letters he
stated: "I am a Russian,
nothing but a Russian poet.
My works are for the Rus-
sian people. I will never be
am emigre. I will never for-
sake the Jewish people." In
fact, Pasternack was more
interested in Russian Or-
thodox Christianity and the
New Testament, than in his
Judaism.
Pasternack was named
Nobel Prize laureate for his
contribution to contempor-
ary poetry, conceived in the
tradition of Russian litera-
ture, and specifically for his
novel "Dr. Zhivago" which
was published outside of the
USSR.
The leitmotif of this work
was the expression of
abhorrence of violence and
the consequent flight from
political realities in search
of individual happiness.
The political storm that
brewed up over the Nobel
Prize forced him to re-
nounce the award after first
having accepted it.
The first Hebrew
writer to be awarded the
Nobel Prize for Litera-
ture was Shmuel Yosef
Agnon (1888-1970), who
received the prize in 1966.
Agnon was born in
Galicia and settled in Eretz
Yisrael in 1909 where he
miblished his_ first story
"Agunot" (Deserted Wives)
from which he derived his
name (originally Czaczkes).
He produced novels and
short stories dealing with
life in Galicia and Eretz
Yisrael. These works dealt
with major contemporary
spiritual concerns: the dis-
integration of traditional
ways of life, the loss of faith
and the subsequent loss of
identity. His many tales
about pious Jews are an ar-
tistic attempt to recapture a
waning tradition.
Agnon shared the prize
with Nelly Sachs (1891-
1970) who was acclaimed as
the voice of "Das Leiden Is-
raels," the suffering of Is-
rael.
Ms. Sachs was born in Be-
rlin and dreamed of being a
dancer before turning to
writing. She grew up in an
assimilated environment
and wrote in German, es-
caping from Nazi Germany
in 1940 and finding refuge
in Sweden where she lived
with her ailing mother in a
cramped room.
Ms. Sachs continued
writing her mystic poetry
in German and long be-
fore the rest of the world
became aware of her, she
was awarded the

Frankfurt Peace Prize.
"Agnon represents the
state of Israel, I represent
the tragedy of the Jewish
people," she said in her ac-
ceptance speech at the
Nobel Prize award cere-
mony.
In 1976, the Nobel Prize
for Literature was awarded
to an American writer, Saul
Bellow (1915). Born in
Quebec, Canada, he moved
with his family to Chicago
when he was nine years old.
Bellow studied sociology
and anthropology and was a
full professor before achiev-
ing fame as a writer, de-
veloping his own special
style, in which the influence
of Yiddish is apparent.
In all his novels, except
"Heriderson the Rain
King," his most memora-
ble characters survey the
human condition from
the specific vantage point
of their Jewish experi-
ence. In their moral
search his Jewish char-
acters use to the full their
peculiar and specific in-
tuitions with a conscious
awareness--of what is
guiding or misleading
them.
Two years later, Isaac
Bashevis Singer became the
seventh Jew to be awarded
the Nobel Prize for Litera-
ture.
Singer was born in 1904
into a rabbinical family in
Leoncin, Poland. He grew
up in Warsaw where he

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made his career until his
emigration to America in
1935.

He made his debut in the
literary world with "Oyf der
Elter" (1925) and in that
same year published his
first story "Vayber" under
the pseudonym Isaac
Bashevis (a derivative of his
mother's first name, Bas-
Sheva) to avoid confusion
with his brother Israel
Joshua Singer who had al-
ready established himself
as a writer.
Singer's first major fic-
tional work was "Satan
in Goray" (1935). In
America his stories and
serialized novels became
a regular feature in the
New York daily "For-
ward" and in the 1950s
his stories began to ap-
pear in translation in
magazines.
Singer works include the
novels "The Family Moskat
(1950), "The Manor" (1967)
and its sequel "The Estate"
(1970), "The ' Magician - of
Lublin" (1960), "The Slave"
(1962) and other works:
"Gimpel the Fool and Other
Stories" (1957), "The
Spinoza of Market Street"
(1961), "Short Friday"
(1964), "A Friend of Kafka"
(1970), "Crown of Feathers"
(1973), "Shosha" (1978).

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