The 1958 novel ?Exodus? by Leon Uris, and the 1960 blockbuster movie that it inspired, set to composer Ernest Gold?s triumphant brassy soundtrack, significantly altered the way Americans, and the rest of the world, see the State of Israel. Yet only now have two full-length studies appeared about the book and its author: ?Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller,? a biography by Ira Nadel, and ?Our Exodus: Leon Uris and the Americanization of Israel?s Founding Story? by M.M. Silver. Why the dela
It is easy enough to understand why Gal Beckerman chose the somewhat melodramatic title, ?When They Come for Us, We?ll be Gone,? for his masterful and highly readable history of the Soviet Jewry movement.
When I was contributing to Simon Wiesenthal?s obituary in 2005 for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, I learned something that surprised me: The legendary Nazi-hunter didn?t personally hunt down a lot of Nazis. Sure, Wiesenthal helped capture some Nazis and their collaborators, and sure, he pioneered efforts to bring the issues of Holocaust memory and unprosecuted war criminals to international attention, but he didn?t track down as many war criminals as the world thought he did ? and he wasn?t aggressive about correcting the record.
There is a moment in David Grossman?s novel, ?See Under: Love,? when an Israeli son of Holocaust survivors gazes at his own sleeping child and remarks to his beaming wife: ??It?s a good thing he can sleep through all the noise? He may have to sleep with tanks passing in the streets someday.?? Perhaps that stark utterance was the catalyst for Grossman?s latest novel, ?To the End of the Land,? with its gripping meditation on love, war, suffering and rebirth. In the future, this may be regarded as Israel?s definitive anti-war novel, but that does not begin to account for its shattering poetry, nor for its incandescent empathy for characters whose euphoria and sorrows are fully revealed.
Robert Gottlieb?s biography of Sarah Bernhardt is the first volume in ?Jewish Lives,? a ?major new series? being offered by Yale University Press. But in what sense did this most legendary of actresses live a Jewish life?
?Marjorie,? the story of a bedazzling Jewess on Manhattan?s Upper West Side who dreams of becoming an actress, was not exactly what critics expected from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ?The Caine Mutiny,? although reviewers took the novel as proof of Wouk?s anti-intellectual, conformist point of view. Literary critic Leslie Fiedler called ?Marjorie? ?the first fictional celebration of the mid-20th-century detente between the Jews and middle-class America.? When Natalie Wood played Marjorie in 1958, it seemed further proof that Wouk?s was a story about, as Time magazine put it, ?an American Everygirl who happens to be Jewish.?
Despite the much-touted death of the physical book, the Orthodox Jewish publishing industry is booming. Perhaps because of the prohibition against using electricity on holidays or on the Sabbath, the ?ArtScroll revolution? is well under way.