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What Is Cynthia Ozick About?

- Abstract

The first to have ventured, Cynthia Ozick remains in a class by herself.

It was in 1966 that she published, in the relatively obscure Hudson Review, her story “The Pagan Rabbi”; in 1969 that “Envy; or, Yiddish in America” caused a stir when it appeared in Commentary. (To give a lesser but then more popular novelist his due, between those two years Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, a novel about an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva boy in New York City, became a national best-seller.) These stories demonstrated what now seems so obvious that it is hard to fathom what took so long, or why more writers did not take up the challenge immediately—namely, that it was possible to write important American Jewish fiction from within.

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.