Emanuel Litvinoff Publications

Bibliography:

  • Conscripts (1941)
  • The Untried Soldier (1942)
  • A Crown for Cain (1948) poems
  • The Lost Europeans (1960)
  • The Man Next Door (1968)
  • Journey Through a Small Planet (1972)
  • A Death Out of Season (1973)
  • Notes for a Survivor (1973)
  • Soviet Anti-Semitism: The Paris Trial (1974)
  • Blood on the Snow (1975)
  • The Face of Terror (1978)
  • The Penguin Book of Jewish Short Stories (1979) editor
  • Falls the Shadow (1983)

PERIODICALS

Best Sellers, June 1, 1969; February, 1979; February, 1984.
Book World, August 3, 1969.
Times Literary Supplement, November 17, 1972; June 29, 1973; March 14, 1975; April 18, 1975; July 21, 1978.*
New Yorker, August 19, 1974.
Observer, October 20, 1968; November 12, 1972; March 2, 1975; May 21, 1978; October 16, 1983.
Listener, October 24, 1968; May 31, 1973; March 15, 1975.
New Statesman, May 5, 1978.
Spectator, June 10, 1978.
Publishers Weekly, April 14, 1969; May 13, 1974; July 10, 1978; October 21, 1983.
Booklist, July 1, 1969; July 15, 1974; July 15, 1978; November 1, 1983.
Punch, October 5, 1983.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1974; June 15, 1978; October 15, 1983.
Library Journal, August, 1978; December 15, 1983.
New York Times Book Review, May 18, 1969; January 1, 1984.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 22, 1984.
Guardian, March 27, 1993.

1915–

Born in London, 30 June 1915, one of nine children. Educated at Wood Close Elementary School; left at 14. Worked in tailoring, cabinet-making, and the fur trade; experienced unemployment and destitution. Served in British Army in Royal West African Frontier Force, 1940–46, in Ulster, West Africa and the Middle East: left with rank of major. Married Cherry Marshall, 1942 (divorced); four children. After World War II worked as journalist and broadcaster; founded the journal Jews in Eastern Europe, London. Edited the journals Insight: Soviet Jews and Soviet Anti-Semitism. Director, Contemporary Jewish Library, London 1958–89. Awarded Wingate Award, 1979.

Selected Writings

Novels

The Lost Europeans, 1960
The Man Next Door, 1968
A Death Out of Season, 1973
Blood on the Snow, 1975
The Face of Terror, 1978
Falls the Shadow, 1983

Autobiography

“Children of Two Inheritances: How It Worked Itself Out”, 1953
Journey through a Small Planet, 1972
“They Made a Jew of Me”, 1973

Play

Magnolia Street Story, 1951

Television Plays: Another Branch of the Family, 1967; Marriage and Henry Sunday, 1967; A Dream in the Afternoon, 1967; Foxhole in Bayswater, 1968; A Foot in the Door, 1969 (in Armchair Theatre series), The Kazmirov Affair, 1969 (in Special Branch series); The World in a Room, 1970 (in Armchair Theatre series); Warm Feet, Warm Heart, 1970 (in Armchair Theatre series); Find the Lady, 1971 (in The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder series)

Poetry

Conscripts: A Symphonic Declaration, 1941
The Untried Soldier, 1942
A Crown for Cain, 1948
Poems for a Survivor, 1973

Other

Editor, Penguin Modern Short Stories, 2, 1969
Editor, Soviet Anti-Semitism: The Paris Trial, 1974
Editor, The Penguin Book of Jewish Short Stories, 1979

Further Reading

Abse, Dannie, “Portrait of a Jewish Poet”, Jewish Quarterly, 1/4(1954)
“Children of Two Inheritances”, Commentary, 15/3 (March 1953)
The Guardian, 27 March 1993 (profile)
Lawson, Peter (editor), Passionate Renewal: Jewish Poetry in Britain since 1945, Nottingham: Five Leaves, 2001

One of the “East End” Anglo-Jewish writers, Emanuel Litvinoff has written poetry, short stories, and novels that explore Jewish identity and survival in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalinism, and the Holocaust. His atmospheric, autobiographical Journey through a Small Planet powerfully evokes the smells, squalor, desperation, anti-Semitism, street fascism, and the hopes of the Jews of London’s now vanished “ghetto”. This rich portrayal of adolescent longings and confusion in a disintegrating immigrant culture between the wars ends when then the young author experiences liberation as a writer with the penning of his first poem.

Litvinoff’s two published volumes of “war” poetry focus on the futility and frustrations of war. A number of poems dwell on the ambivalence of the Jewish soldier fighting to save the very civilization that renders him an outsider and oppresses him as a Jew. He also entertains the choice between a fragmented, dislocated, and problematic Jewish identity and the appealing, apparently uncomplicated freedom and normality of assimilation into English society. Litvinoff returns to these themes of “civilized” anti-Semitism and assimilation in his 1951 poem “To T.S.Eliot” and in his 1960 novel The Lost Europeans. In the poem he identifies with Eliot’s crass stereotype of Jews—“Bleistein is my relative, and I share the protozoic slime of Shylock” and calls for an open recognition of anti-Jewish prejudice. His reading of the poem at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London led to calls for an apology and silence from the literary establishment about Eliot’s portrayal of Jews. In the meticulously researched novel, the English-educated Jewish protagonist, Martin Stone, travels after the war to a shattered Berlin to find that a now hidden but still active antiSemitism prevents him from returning “home” to Germany. These deliberations lead him to acknowledge that it is the same anti-Semitism that prevented him from ever being at home in England too. The triumphant war against fascism was never a war against, nor a victory over, a deeply embedded and enduring European Christian anti-Semitism. As a survivor Stone meets other Jewish survivors, in particular Hugo Krantz, and shares the growing recognition that assimilation can never be a real possibility as he discovers his deeper identity as a Jew. It is a mere accident of fate that leads to a Jew living, or dying, in Whitechapel, Riga, Odessa, Berlin, Treblinka, or Auschwitz. The Jew as outsider is equally exiled from the premature universality of the Left and the blood and soil of the Right—a Jew is only at home in his “rootlessness”.

Litvinoff’s next novel, The Man Next Door, deepens his exploration of English racism. Harold Bollam, ex-army and public schoolboy, middle-manager and unhappy husband and father, comes to his mid-life crisis by seeing his new Jewish next door neighbours, the Winstons (née Weinstein) as the cause of all his woes. The novel offers a plausible psychopathological account of the birth and growth of a middle-class English anti-Semite amid the threatening transformations of late 1960s Britain.

Litvinoff labels his “ancestors” East End anarchists and describes their clandestine meetings, their perpetual fear of exposure, and their plans for symbolic action to further their cause. This background provides the scene for the first volume of his “The Faces of Terror” trilogy. This is Litvinoff’s most extensive work (A Death Out of Season, Blood on the Snow, and The Face of Terror). The novels span the period from 1910 and the Jewish anarchist and revolutionary plots against the monarchs of Europe, via the Bolshevik victory of 1917, to the covert actions and internal politics of the Communist Party and its secret services under Stalin. The thrillers trace the action from Warsaw and London to Moscow, Berlin, and Paris. Litvinoff delineates the competing ideologies of revolution, the commitment to freedom and belief in the cause of justice, followed by disillusion and despair at the new, equally repressive forms of power. He writes of love, loyalty, and betrayal in a world of spies and double agents, a world that ends in the terror of Stalin’s purges of the 1930s.

Falls the Shadow, Litvinoff’s 1983 novel, returns to the theme of the Holocaust and survival with an intriguingly twisted tale. It seems that a murdered man shot by a camp survivor in Tel Aviv might have been a Nazi SS officer who had escaped Europe and taken on the identity of a Jewish victim. It appears that he lived as a Jew, a believing Jew, for nearly 40 years in suburban Tel Aviv, raised a family and was buried as a Jew in a Jewish cemetery. The author asks us to consider whether this life could constitute an adequate penance.

Litvinoff was also a television playwright, the editor of the successful The Penguin Book of Jewish Short Stories, and continued to publish poetry in the Jewish Quarterly and elsewhere, with a fourth volume, Poems for a Survivor, published in 1973.

In his novels and poems Litvinoff wrote about the Holocaust and totalitarian terror before many other writers. Likewise, he sought to address the anti-Semitism of Eliot and others decades before this became a public issue. His writings offer a series of sustained deliberations on the fragmenting of European Jewish identity and the tensions and realities of Jewish assimilation into wider society in the context of the unprecedented disruptions of the last century. He reports that his writing is haunted by the Holocaust and in a sense his Jewish protagonists are all dislocated survivors of the lost worlds of European Jewry. Litvinoff’s portrayals rarely focus on the religious dimensions of Jewish identity and his characters are non-religious and find neither identity nor solace in religious belief, practice, or community. Jewish identity, strong and natural, is often rejected or minimized only to return strengthened by the experiences of exclusion and prejudice. This damaged sense of self is often reinforced by Jews themselves. His English Jew, poet and novelist, escapee from the East End and communal life now at the edge of the “host culture” with its many limitations clearly seen, cannot yet conceive, as a later generation of writers would insist, that these very peculiarities of Anglo-Jewry be a cause for celebration.

PAUL MORRIS

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