From Reading Room/8:


The Spanish Journey of the 20th–Century American Novel: Saul Bellow and Ernest Hemingway
Barbara Probst Solomon

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Augie, like Quijote, is always on the move. And like Quijote, he sees life at a slant. Ironically, in turning toward Quijote, Bellow, the novelist, who in the second half of the 20th-century shaped the voice of his marginal but buoyant American-Jewish protagonist into becoming the American fictional voice, reached back into a similar hybrid society. The impact that post-World War II American Jewish writers have had on our literature has only happened once before, in pre-Inquisitional, Muslim-ruled Spain. For at least 1,400 years in Spain, since the time of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, Jews considered themselves as Spanish as the Christians. Less pietistic than the German Jewish communities, the concerns of the Spanish Jews were more worldly. In their Golden Age Spanish Jews wrote marvelous erotic poetry. Interestingly, their writing also showed a deep concern with the material loss of property; the Jewish community constantly argued among themselves about the sloppy assimilationist of their leading literary lights, about debauchery and hedonism. (Wealthy Jewish males frequently took their Arabic and Tartar female slaves as concubines.) In their concern with the good life they resembled contemporary American Jews far more than the pious East European Jews whose history is more familiar to us. 

 

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