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January 09, 1987 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

similation faced by Karl
Kraus, Sigmund Freud,
Theodor Herzl, Martin Buber,
the notorious Otto Weininger,
Max Nordau and Franz Kafka
/'
are addressed. Kafka was one
of those caught in the double
bind. He was attracted to and
repulsed by the eastern Euro-
pean Jews. Gilman's analysis
of Kafka's "A Report to the
Academy" is superb in his de-
scription of that story as a
paradigm of the eastern Euro-
pean Jew's insecure status. In
the story an ape learns to talk
> but he remains an ape.
Gilman's insights into the
attitudes toward "the self" of
German-Jewish writers in the
nineteenth and twentieth cen-
tury are sound and his book is
obviously a significant contri-
bution to the study of the pecul-
iar phenomenon of Jewish
anti-Semitism. The book is
well worth reading for its his-
torical material and its in-
sights into the complex psy-
chology of the central Euro-
pean Jewish writers.
As good as Gilman's book is,
it is not without faults. The
text is sometimes obfuscated
and slowed by a scholarly pon-
derousness. Moreover, as good
as Gilman is on the German-
Jewish writers, his observa-
tions about contemporary
American-Jewish writers
seem simplistic and tailored to
fit his thesis. Gilman's
analysis of Philip Roth, for
example, is curious, indeed. He
argues that because Roth was
charged with Jewish self-
hatred after Goodbye Colum-
bus was published, the novelist
responded by creating Nathan
Zuckerman (the Zuckerman
Bound trilogy) as a self-hating
Jewish writer, in order merely
to examine the persona of the
Jewish anti-Semite. In the ab-
sence of any corroborating evi-
dence from Roth, I find that
hard to believe. Stranger still,
the most outspoken Jewish
anti-Semite of them all, Nor-
man Mailer, is not discussed at
all. Finally, Gilman postulates
that American plurality is
bringing to an end the
centuries-old pattern of hostile
Jewish identity formation.
Given the apocalyptic history
of the Jews, such optimism in
an otherwise sophisticated
work, seems to me not only
unwarranted, but naive.

Copyright 1987 Joseph Cohen

Polish, Israeli
Scholars Meet

/-

/-'

Jerusalem - A 60-member
delegation from Jerusalem
attended the first joint Polish-
Israeli academic conference on
the history of Polish Jewry in
December. The conference,
held in Cracow, was co-
sponsored by the Center for
Research on Polish Jewry at
the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem and the 600-year-
old Jagiellonian University of
Cracow, which hosted the
event.

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