Edward Dahlberg, one of the more violent writers of the proletarian school who usually looks as though somebody had just informed him that the Revolution had arrived and he had hurriedly gotten out of bed to join it, will greet the crisp Fall season with a new novel which John Day is publishing under the title of “Those Who Perish.”
If one is kindly disposed toward Mr. Dahlberg one will say that his book might be labeled an anti-Nazi story, but most Jews will dislike it thoroughly. Dealing entirely with Jewish characters there is little action in the plot which concerns a small group of American Jewsâ€”tells how they are affected by the depression and the Nazi reign of terrorism.
Harry Rosenzweig, wealthy, ignorant, uncouth, the supporter of the Jewish Center; Joshua Boaz, unhappily married director of the Center and a firm believer in Zionism, and fifty-year-old Regina Gordon, mistress of Boaz, are the leading protagonists. Rosenzweig, secure in his wealth, is unmoved by the economic changes. All he wants to do is to be known as a great philanthropist.
Boaz, neurotic, dissatisfied, uncertain, is frightened by the world. He wishes to escape by going to Palestine with his mistress, Regina, whose idiot daughter is her cross, is the only one of the trio who is permitted to see as the author doesâ€”namely that Nazism is merely an offshot of capitalism Before the book is finished there is a sudden death, a murder snd a suicide all of which is very depressing and although there are moments of fine writing the story as a whole is far from convincing.
Dahlberg refuses to be subtle. He lays about with gusto, ridiculing and caricaturing his characters and what they believe in mercilessly.
Like all good and bad proletarian novelists, Mr. Dahlberg has a message, his being that the answer to the Jewish problem is Communism. To prove his point he introduces the inevitable sensitive little Jew who cannot get along in this materialistic world, showing how he is buffeted about and finally starved to death. On the slow way to his death the author takes the time to point out the workers’ struggle for existence. In these portions of the book Mr. Dahlberg is at his best but he has peopled his story with such strange, unbelievable characters that much of the book’s force is dissipated.
NOTES AND COMMENTS
It is too early to say very much about Albert Halper’s new novel “The Foundry” but if it is not hailed as the best proletarian novel of the decade this column will buy itself a new hat… John O’Hara’s best selling novel, “Appointment in amara,” was offered simultaneously to four publishers; the author writing each a letter stating that he was working on a novel but would not show it to them; however, the first one who sent him $500 could have it. Harcourt Brace bought this pig-in-the-poke and it turned out to be very kosher. Mr. O’Hara was not unknown to publishers having written many sketches and stories for the New Yorker … which reminds â€” Wolfe Kaufman whose “Tender Cheeks” will be out in a few weeks, was once a member of the staff of the New Yorker, once worked on the tabloid The Graphic and once ran a very literary magazine in Paris …