Cynthia Ozick’s Very Jewish Appreciation of Literary Critics

Sept. 28 2016

In her recently published collection, Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, & Other Literary Essays, Cynthia Ozick’s overarching concern is literature itself, its value, and those who interpret it. Dara Horn detects a distinctly Jewish flavor in Ozick’s approach to these matters:

While she doesn’t quite spell it out here, Ozick’s idea of criticism being essential to literature is itself a claim with its oldest roots in Torah study. In a passage in Deuteronomy that directly denies the rhapsodic or incantatory power of scripture, Moses informs the Israelites that the Torah “is not in heaven, . . . neither is it beyond the sea. . . . No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart.”

The rabbis later understood this passage to mean that interpreting Torah was itself an indispensable component of Torah, that God—or a Hellenistic-style muse—is not going to show up and provide an answer to the text’s many questions. Therefore, careful readers are obligated not merely to read, but to consider, compare, situate, interpret. In other words: without critics, incoherence.

And this bring us to the central Jewish idea that drives this book, along with so much else Cynthia Ozick has given us, which at last explains her enduring fascination with fame: without critical reading, no eternal life. The blessings recited at public Torah readings announce that the book itself, rather than some mystical promises, is “eternal life planted in our midst,” the Tree of Life that had been walled off in Eden returned to us—not God, a prophet, or an artist, but as a book.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Arts & Culture, Cynthia Ozick, Jewish literature, Literary criticism

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela