Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is there such a thing as Jewish fiction?

Moment magazine this month includes answers by 17 authors to this question: "Is there such a thing as Jewish fiction?" Every answer is somewhat different -- though very few simply think there is NO such thing as Jewish fiction. Some of the respondents, naturally, think "Jewish Fiction" is a more important category than others do. Some define "Jewish Fiction" as any fiction by Jews, any fiction about Jews, or any fiction written in a Jewish language (like Hebrew). Some think "Jewish Fiction" deals with Jewish types of concerns, such as being an outsider, or with Jewish ethics or even Jewish humor. Religion plays a minor role in most of the definitions.

I liked this statement by Israeli author Etgar Keret:
"It’s not like everybody who was circumcised necessarily writes Jewish fiction, but there are some elements that you can often find in Jewish writing but that are rare when it comes to Israeli writing. What I feel is very deeply Jewish is reflexiveness. Traditionally, the diaspora Jew always carries two identities: his national identity and his Jewish identity. This has allowed him always to be both an insider and an outsider; if he was American he could live his life as an American but could always use the other Jewish tier to look at his actions and the people around him from the outside. In that sense, I think the most “Jewish writer” active now in Israel is Sayeed Kashua, who is an Israeli Arab, because as an Israeli Arab he keeps this kind of two-tier thinking tradition, having both the Israeli national identity and this other identity of being an Arab."

This Symposium is worth reading!

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