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Gard, Roger Martin du (23 March 1881 - 22 August 1958)
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Among his significant plays are Amorphed'Ottenburg and En revenant de l'Expo , and above all Dreyfus , unanimously hailed as a masterpiece. Grumberg seeks to reconcile History, and its seeming absurdity, with Man, trapped in his contradictions. History is invoked frequently, yet often treated with contempt. Man alone, in his human individual quality, really matters, with all his shortcomings. Dreyfus presents a potentially comical and pathetic situation. In a Vilna suburb in , a group of townspeople rehearses a play about the Dreyfus Affair, written by Maurice, a young Jewish intellectual, who dreams of representing the Truth of History, of drawing a moral from past events and of creating genuine popular theater.

But as the simple townspeople themselves see it, there is no historical truth; the only truth is what we see and recreate. If Maurice wants a moral, a lecture is preferable. As to popular theater, it has nothing to do with distant, foreign historical events. It must spring from experience and tradition.

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Michel, the cobbler, feels nothing in common with the French captain; he cannot play the role and remains wooden at rehearsals. Arnold, the barber, who plays the part of Zola, finds his text long and pompous; he would prefer a gay little Yiddish song. Motel, the tailor, sees no reason to make a blue uniform for Dreyfus, like in the pictures: he has a big reserve of red cloth. Zina, Arnold's wife, has to cross the stage, shouting Death to the Jews; she would rather be the captain's mother — a good Yiddische mama! In short, the towns-people, authentically alive, refuse the lifeless construction of the dreamy intellectual.

The clash creates hilarious scenes. At times, emotion and even grandeur take over, as in the scene of the drunken Poles' attack, courageously repelled by the Jew, or the tale of the saintly hasidic rabbi who rose higher than God Himself. And finally in the last scene a taste of irony and tragic humor dominates: after the play's failure, Maurice goes to Warsaw and joins the Polish communist party.

In a letter to his friends, one savors the bitter flavor of ideologies espoused by Jewish intellectuals whether communists of the s or leftists of today. As a tragic echo comes a letter from Berlin, where two of the young actors have gone to seek their fortune: Germany is after all a civilized country, where one can build a future! Irony and humor, tempered by tenderness and sadness, contrive to make Dreyfus a great Jewish play and a masterpiece of comedy.

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His play, L'Atelier dwells, with typical tender Yiddish humor, on the sad life of the Holocaust survivors. The first book, which created a sensation and won the much coveted Goncourt literary prize, presents a vivid picture of the Parisian Belleville slum, where Jews, Arabs, Blacks and other minorities live in close and generally friendly contact.

The author chose to have his story narrated by a year-old Arab boy, Momo, who, along with other semi-abandoned children of prostitutes, was raised by a Jewish mama, Madame Rosa, herself an ex-prostitute. Although the relationship between the kind and generous Madame Rosa and her precious and affectionate son appears to be an authentic and touching love story between mother and child, above and beyond racial and cultural barriers, the book has a very unreal quality.

The numerous characters, perhaps with the exception of the old Jewish neighborhood doctor, seem to have walked out of a book of fables, including Momo, a cross between an innocent small boy and a knowledgeable social critic, and Madame Rosa herself, a victim of society and persecution on the one hand and a monumental monstrous delirious figure of terrorized womanhood on the other.

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Madame Rosa's Jewish cellar, which symbolically portrays an underground refuge in a hostile world, serves as the last retrenchment when death and madness overtake Madame Rosa's soul and body. In spite of the repeated Jewish references the central figure, Madame Rosa, could belong to any oppressed ethnic group: as the author himself admits, everyone is entitled to a secret hiding place.

And if Momo, the little Arab, can grasp this, it is because Arab or Jew, where is the difference? L'angoisse du roi Salomon is also a kind of fable, where mythical representation and social realism are constantIy intertwined.

It is based on the story of an old noble-looking Jew, Mr. Salomon Rubinstein, former king of ready-to-wear fashion turned philanthropist devoted to helping lonely souls. The role of son and narrator is held by a young Paris taxi driver who, just as Momo did with Madame Rosa, finds in the old Jewish paternal figure the epitome of human compassion and kindness. King Salomon, who spent four years hidden in a cellar during the Nazi occupation, is scarred by pain and solitude.

Like Madame Rosa he has sublimated the anguish by becoming a benevolent dispenser of kindness all around him. Ajar's style in both novels reproduces the language of the man in the street, savory, slangy, full of verve and irony, yet barely concealing a feeling of malaise and suffocation.

The post-war generation's need to find its Jewish roots has expressed itself in still other genres, spiritual or intellectual diaries, where remembrances either are mixed with religious, philosophical or political reflections or frankly give way to an essay commenting on insistent preoccupation with the Jewish condition in our age. In the category of essays one must mention the attempt by Alain Finkielkraut — to analyze the state of mind of his generation in Le Juif imaginaire Disappointed with leftist politics, tired of resisting his parents' recurrent "Jewish leitmotiv," he rediscovered for himself the significance of the Jewish message.

Although he is well-read, his statement is based solely on his own intuitive subjective feeling. The impact felt by the works of a group of young philosophers appears to be a more lasting one. What emerges here is the indictment of Athens in the name of Jerusalem. Bernard Chouraqui's — message in Le Scandale juif ou la subversion de la mort is more flamboyant and more mystical in its condemnation of Western rationalism. The latter is accused of having stifled the limitless freedom of man's spirit and more specifically the Jewish spirit. If permitted to fulfill its true vocation, Judaism can overcome death itself.

The statement is often too grandiloquent to be totally convincing. He too challenged the European humanism and rationalism, but in so doing he also condemned "Western oriented" Ashkenazi Judaism and Zionism itself. In the name of Kabbalistic tradition and Sephardi predominance he advocated a kind of revivalist Judaism, far from the Haskalah tradition. Most of these prolific authors were disillusioned leftists.

Roger Martin du Gard

One of the most interesting was Pierre Goldman — , a son of Polish immigrants who, after revolutionary activities, was accused of murder. He discovered his Jewishness in jail and started to study Judaism seriously. He wrote his first and best book in prison. After his release he was murdered under mysterious circumstances. He proclaimed himself a Jewish revolutionary, who, in anguished self-concern, expressed his identification with his people through his revolutionary convictions. His Jewish self-identification remained divorced from either religious or Zionist feelings.

The theme is couched in the form of a legend: the hero fulfills an angelic mission, that of exterminating all officialdom, because it represents a civilization responsible for Auschwitz. Henri Raczymow's — Contes d'exil et d'oubli "Tales of Exile and Oblivion," are an imaginary dialogue between a grandson in search of his Jewish self and a Polish grandfather transplanted to the Paris ghetto of Belleville. The tales contained in this short volume beautifully bring to life the charm and faith of the shtetl. Un cri sans voix tells the story of Esther who was totally obsessed with the memory of the Warsaw ghetto and committed suicide in the s.

Raczymow also published an intriguing essay. He turned his attention, like others before him, to Swann, the half-Jewish Proustian hero. But the approach is new. The title of the book, Le cygne de Proust , gives a clue of the direction chosen.

Gard, Roger Martin du (23 March - 22 August ) |

Referring himself to one of the known models for Swann, namely Charles Haas, a dandy of the day a German Jew , the essay pinpoints what links Swann to him and what separates Swann from his presumed model. The author's starting point is the translation from Haas to Swann. Haas hare in German was both too plebeian and too German for Proust's taste. Passing over to the English more to the snobs' liking he coined the new name Swann, only subtly reminiscent to the French reader of its translation swan — and not Swann — evoking in English the noble and mythical bird: "le cygnet". Such is the starting point for the essay.

The author then answers the secret: how did the idea suggest itself? He observed in a painting representing a brilliant social circle, that Charles Haas was standing "near the door, facing the others, though on the side, as if he hesitated to mingle with them and penetrate inside the circle. One can see in this study a literary illustration of social marranism.

Myriam Anissimov, born in in a refugee camp, wrote a Kafkaesque novel, Rue de Nuit , the bizarre story of a couple accused of some unknown crime. In La soie et les cendres Silk and ashes, , Hannah, obsessed with the weight of her people's tragic past, deceives herself into believing that she has found the truth about herself and her link with the Holocaust. She has found an original "profession" for herself: she sells shmattes old clothes at the flea market. In so doing, she fantasizes that she is one with the pitiful remains the "silk" of the victims at Auschwitz the "ashes". The book tells the sad and perverse nightmare of a Jewish girl, who eventually faces up to the essential duty of living creatively.

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She will find salvation through music, doubtless a finer memorial to the victims. Robin had already devoted Le deuil de l'origine to the influence of their Jewish roots and the loss of their language Yiddish or Ladino on the works of several writers, such as Kafka, Celan, Freud, Canetti, and Perec. The memory of the Holocaust remains at the heart of some young writers' books. The first novel of Norbert Czarny deals with the problem of memory, or rather the ability to keep alive and convey the reality of the past. In Les valises the narrator's parents and grandparents, unlike the father in Wiesel's book, have been feeding the child endless stories of their past. But the child, threatened with suffocation, by the burden of those recollections, transforms, almost magically, a hard and somber tale into a legend full of poetic charm.

Stephanie Janicot wrote her first novel, Les Matriochkas , about the relationship between a young German and the Jewish family he lives with in Paris in the s. Gila Lustiger — , who grew up in Germany, published L'inventaire and Noussommes , telling the story of her family. The German occupation, which the author never experienced, is the recurrent and obsessive theme.

A search for his true identity and for the meaning of his Jewish condition runs through the first novel, where the hero lives in fantasy through a thousand lives and identities. As a Jew, he sees himself sometimes as a king, sometimes a martyr. The same quest continues in the other books, down to the haunting search for the father in the last novel. The father is a pathetic, repulsive, ghost-like figure, victim and partner of a shady gang who lives it up under Nazi occupation.

The ultimate question remains: is one ever free to choose or are we nothing but puppets in the hands of blind fate? The notion of Jewish identity has lost all moral or historic meaning.

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