“The Pawnbroker” at Fifty

Fifty years ago this week Edward Lewis Wallant’s novel The Pawnbroker was published. While it is customarily described as one of the first American novels to examine the moral and spiritual consequences of the Holocaust, the truth is that Wallant’s novel has been superseded by later fictional accounts that perform the examination with a keener insight derived from deeper historical knowledge. The Pawnbroker is not really a Holocaust novel at all. It is something different. And at least when it comes to the American novel, something better. The Pawnbroker is one of the last examples of a genre that has largely disappeared from American shores — the meaning-making novel, the novel with something to say, the novel with an overt and unembarrassed message.

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“The Pawnbroker” at Fifty

Must-Reads from Magazine

So Now We’re Killing Russians

The stuff of nightmares.

Americans no longer have the luxury of throwing up their hands in frustration over the confused situation on the ground in Syria. As the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov demonstrated, unpacking the bewildering complexity of the conditions that prevail on the ground now that the ISIS threat has receded leaves observers with the terrifying realization that great power conflict is not so difficult to imagine.

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Responding to Parkland: Amend the Second Amendment?

Podcast: How to respond to mass murder.

For those who want radical changes in the way the United States handles guns and shooters, what else can be done but amending the Constitution to supplant the Second Amendment? That’s the question I ask Noah Rothman and Abe Greenwald on this edition of the COMMENTARY Magazine podcast, which also addresses rising Republican fortunes in national polling. Give a listen.

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The Courage to Confront Campus Radicalism

Fear for the future.

When conservatives and conscience-addled liberals fret about the rising influence of censorious students on college campuses, the overwhelming response they get from skeptics is “who cares?” Those who do not outright defend creeping radicalism on campus are prone to minimize the threat of violence and fanaticism. While obtuse, this approach does have some immediate political utility. Dismissing events on campus as the antics of a few misguided kids casts those who care about such affairs as obsessive cranks who fixate on matters of no objective consequences. It goes without saying that not everyone is sincere who wonders aloud about the relevance of maximalist rhetoric, racial intolerance, and even violence on campus, but some are. They deserve an answer. Why should we care about rigidly enforced intellectual cloistering on campuses?

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Now, More than Ever, Holocaust Memory Matters

Memory and Judaism are inseparable.

Yes. That’s the answer to a question posed by the headline of Shmuel Rosner’s latest piece in the New York Times. Yes: Israeli students need to visit Auschwitz. All Jewish students should. Plenty of non-Jews, too.

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Mr. Ellison Goes to Dinner

Collusion of a different sort.

My former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal recently unearthed what should be a major political scandal. It involves an anti-American government, a prominent member of Congress, and a far-right group that traffics in anti-Semitism, homophobia, and conspiracy theories. In the current climate of anxiety about “collusion” and the alt-right, you would think the liberal media would give this story top billing.

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