How a Literary Masterpiece Launched Five Decades of Bad Holocaust Fiction

Decrying the proliferation of novels that exploit “an utterly unredemptive historical catastrophe for the sake of yet another love story or coming-of-age tale or journey of self-discovery,” Dara Horn considers Edward Lewis Wallant’s The Pawnbroker (1961). The novel tells the story of an embittered Holocaust survivor named Sol, who runs a pawnshop in Harlem, and it served as a prototype for others after it—which, she argues, it emphatically is not:

Sol’s assistant in the pawnshop, an ambitious young man named Jesus Ortiz, mistakes Sol’s catatonic approach to life for calculating business acumen, especially when he notices that the store seems to be a financial success. Hoping for a foothold in the middle class, and sensing something otherworldly about his employer, he tries mightily to break through Sol’s shell. This is the part where a post-Pawnbroker Holocaust novel would have the young man succeed in uncovering Sol’s hidden humanity, in a redemptive arc ending in mentorship and hard-earned wisdom.

That’s not what happens. Instead, the pawnshop is revealed to be a money-laundering operation for a gangland empire, and it’s a matter of time before co-conspirator Sol winds up with a gun in his mouth. Things get worse from there.

What’s more, Horn writes, rather than de-Judaizing the Shoah, “Wallant catapults this novel out of the world of today’s uplifting Holocaust fiction and into the canon of Jewish literature and its 25 centuries of artistic responses to catastrophe.”

Read more at Literary Hub

More about: Arts & Culture, Holocaust, Holocaust fiction, Jewish literature, Literature

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus