Englishness, Jewishness, Saul Bellow—and Martin Amis

With his latest book, Inside Story, the English novelist Martin Amis has attempted a hybrid of fiction and autobiography, using the book to discuss his relationships with various literary friends and, of course, with his father—the novelist Kingsley Amis. While most critics have not been kind to the book, David Herman finds that it has its merits, especially when it addresses the themes of “literary fathers, Englishness, Jews, [and] envy.” Herman finds of special interest the portions of the book devoted to the novelist Saul Bellow, whom Martin appears to regard as a sort of substitute father:

If Kingsley was insular and middlebrow, what kind of literary father was Bellow? American, cosmopolitan, he had found his voice in Augie March, he took on “the deeps”: big issues and big ideas. Bellow was the sort of writer who named one of his most famous characters after a minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses and wrote two novels about friends who had died, Delmore Schwartz (Humboldt in Humboldt’s Gift) and Allan Bloom (the title character in Ravelstein).

Above all, Bellow was Jewish. One of the first conversations Martin Amis describes having with Bellow was about Jews. “Why don’t Jews drink?” Martin wants to know. They soon get onto “anti-Semitic culture,” what Bellow calls “the traditional culture of [Ezra] Pound and Wyndham Lewis and T.S. Eliot.” “Well, two nutters and a monarchist,” says Amis.

Herman contrasts this to Inside Story’s occasional references to the elder Amis’s casual anti-Semitism—or, at least hints of it.

Martin writes in Inside Story about a conversation with his wife. “‘Did you ring the Jews?’” he asks her. “‘Yes,’ said Elena [his wife]. ‘And they’re alright?’ ‘They’re fine.’ The Jews were their daughters (and they were full Jews too, by the way, by the ancient law of matrilinearity, and could simply walk into Israel as full citizens).” If Kingsley was the sort of writer who would write, “Yid” in a game of Scrabble, Martin was the sort who would proudly flaunt his children’s Jewishness. [Yet] Amis never explains why Jewishness was so important to him.

Read more at The Critic

More about: Anti-Semitism, Literature, Martin Amis, Saul Bellow

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority