To the Editor:
Robert Alter, in his perceptive “Modernism, the Germans & the Jews” [March] . . . makes some important distinctions among the three categories mentioned in his title. There is, perhaps, one more that could be tried—namely, a category of creativeness (and fate). . . .
I refer to those German Jewish individuals who with a measure of inner certainty, considerable strength, and much balance, and not without the necessary shot of modernism, seemed to have lived in both worlds (i.e., in all three) while consciously considering and stating the issues involved.
A tentative list would include Gabriel Riesser, vice president of the Frankfurt Parliament, 1848, as a writer and thinker; Berthold Auerbach, the author of the single most popular German short story (“Barfüssele”) and publicist of Jewish problems; and the sensitive Moritz Heimann, poet and editor, for whom the magnetism of two cultural worlds was as natural a phenomenon as the motion of planets obeying two centers of gravity (the image is his).
These figures are not without recognition in both worlds—and they need fresh study and evaluation. Even Martin Buber may partially belong here; his solemn German rendering of the Hebrew Bible and the hasidic tales is resonant only in one linguistic medium, and unthinkable without Stefan George.
Henry A. Fischel
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures