Jewish Writers In England:
A Tradition Begins
DURING THE past few years several new Jewish novelists and playwrights have attracted considerable attention in the British literary world. Whereas Jews have long played an important role in American literary life, they have until recently been a negligible element in British letters. A few months ago, Brian Glanville (himself one of the new Anglo-Jewish novelists) remarked on this difference in an article in Encounter where he glanced longingly at the greater Jewish population of the United States (five million to Britain’s less than half a million) and at what he conceives to be “a definite Jewish intellectual life, centered on New York.”
Now, the contrast between Anglo-Jewish and Jewish American writing is striking, but the period for significant comparison is quite small. The Jewish populations of both Britain and the United States were relatively insubstantial until Russian oppression of the Jews in the 1880′s stimulated a sizeable immigration to both countries. The Jewish population of Britain in 1880 is authoritatively estimated at 50,000; in the years from 1881 to 1914, approximately 100,000 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe flowed into England. Most of the highly visible British Jews today-including the writers-are the descendants of these immigrants and others who followed.
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