Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Literature

Good literature like good art and good music could really move one's soul.  The language, the imagery, the plot, the characters, the message , there is a reason why good literature is often an integral part of a well rounded education.  But here is the rub, well crafted and well written literature can transfer one into an alternate reality, it can paint a picture so enchanting that one will have a hard time returning to the here and now without being affected in a very deep way.  So literature of the wrong kind, with a wrong message but still well written and well crafted can really corrupt a person internally.  This of course creates a challenge for a Jewish parent who wants his/her child to benefit from the good things that literature offers but  not be negatively influenced and polluted in any way.  Here I am speaking mostly about fiction which is much more problematic generally.  In the past people resolved this dilemma by either abstaining entirely from secular literature or selecting something that was considered more or less pareve and therefore suitable for an orthodox reader.  Alternatively, they could just do away with fiction and stick to nonfiction exclusively.  There were of course frum works of fiction available but the selection was somewhat limited, especially for avid readers.  At the same time the newer fiction that comes out for the general audiences has grown more and more unsuitable, to put it mildly, both in language and subject matter. But a jewish novel is not a basically secular novel but with jewish characters. So there is a real need for good, solid jewish fiction.   Thank G-d the field of jewish fiction in english has really exploded in recent years and the quality has also improved dramatically. So if one wants to introduce one's children to good literature for the purpose of appreciating good writing, understanding how to communicate one's thoughts effectively, improving one's vocabulary and learning how to use language in a masterful and creative way, there is now jewish literature of the right kind available to fill this need.  Recently I read just such a book.  My sister-in-law lent me a book called Betrayal by M.Keinan, translated from hebrew by Libby Lazewnik, a wonderful writer in her own right.  It's not a light read, it's a jewish epic novel , beautifully written, with well developed characters and an authentic jewish message.  It really hits all the right notes because it contains all the elements of trully good literature without sacrificing anything in spiritual quality.  Just beautiful, a real masterpiece.


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