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The Human Touch

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Happy is that nation, the old saying goes, that has no history. Germany is having plenty of history just now, no matter how much more history its Jewish community is suffering. The non-Jew in Germany is probably having lots of fun while he’s having history, but no one can doubt that the fun is a bit feverish, inducing that false glow of health which, in human victims, seems to give the lie to the medical diagnosis. There is also a great to do today about the so-called "leader-principle" and little bullies, carbon copies of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, are rising up to justify themselves on the "leader principle". In the university world the application of that principle—as Miss Thompson points out in her article elswhere in this issue— means in effect turning over institutions of the higher learning to the football teams. Germany has had glorious history and has suffered a good deal from the leader principle. It is sometimes difficult to tell, before perspective has been gained, whether a leader is diadem on the brow of a nation, or a very ugly boil on the back of its neck, a boil that glows with the phosphorescence of putridity. I do not remember whether Carlyle who admired the Prussian spirit to such an extent that he wrote at least six volumes on Frederick the Great and exalted men of iron, Prussian and English, thoroughly realized the evil which leaders did or the evils of which they were the symbol and the expression.

An informed friend with whom I’ve just had lunch brings into relief the whole business of the leader principle by recalling several anthropological footnotes across which he recently came in his reading.

The Zuni Indians and the Samoans are supposed to be savages. At the same time they have the edge on most of the Occidental tribes; they have had very little history—except such as has been inflicted upon them by tourists and more violent invaders. Yet separated by thousands of miles from each other though they are, the Zuni Indians and the Samoans have a very good idea in common; they turn the leader principle upside down.

Among them leadership is punishment. Maybe that’s because they haven’t the Western dash and go, the ambition of the up-and-coming. Whenever a not so pleasant person emerges among them, they make him their chief, or Hitler, as you might say—and in the case of the Samoans, the family of the elected man goes into mourning. They have been dishonored. The elected man doesn’t feel too good about it, either, but what can he do? Those whom the community likes and admires remain unelected and obscure. There is no doubt in my mind that either Goering, Goebbels, or Hitler would be elected unanimously in any tribe of the Samoans or the Zunis. Clever people, these Samoans and Zunis. Only they don’t know it, lucky devils!


A Painter friend of mine, a brilliant young man, earned his living for several months in a most curious manner. (He is a painter in the Rembrandtian sense, not a house-painter, in the Hitler sense.) Not having had much success in selling his canvasses, he, together with several other artists in the same boat, applied to the Unemployment Emergency Relief organization. This bureau then persuaded a Catholic priest in a Negro parish that it might not be a bad idea to set these painters to work on murals on the church walls. (Incidentally, many of the painters were Jewish lads.) The idea was accepted and the artists, my friend included, set to work. During the progress of their labor, there was a considerable amount of discussion among the parishioners as to what proportion of the angels were to be white and what black. The proportion was satisfactorily worked out. Shortly thereafter, my young friend managed to sell one of his finest paintings to museum in New York so that, for some time at least, he will not be under obligation to do murals for a negro church. Not that it wasn’t great fun while it lasted. He says he has seen painted angels but he never painted them.


Is it possible to publish a best seller and still be poor? It is. If you doubt it ask Guy Endore, novelist and biographer, translator and scholar, author of "The Werewolf of Paris". And it isn’t because of anyone’s fault, error, misdemeanor or felony. It just happens to be the case. Incidentally, "The Werewolf of Paris" is an historical-mythological thriller set at the time of the siege of Paris, and after, during the time of the bloody internal strife that followed the Prussian victory. It is a first-rate thriller. Which means that it should be begun, and finished, in the daytime.

Guy Endore is that curiosity, a native New Yorker. During his formative years, 1908-14, he lived abroad, for the most part in Vienna, where he was a student in the Gymnasium there. Did his European education mature him more quickly than school in America would have? I asked him. He answered: "Intellectually, yes, practically, Europe retarded me." The outbreak of the war brought him back. In 1924 Columbia gave him his A.B. degree and the following year his Master of Arts. He pursued his studies with the intention of becoming a teacher of Romance languages. For three years, up to 1927, he worked on the thesis for his Ph.D. degree, the first edited translation into English of Descartes’ "Principles of Philosophy." His first published book, "Casanova, His known and Unknown Life", gave him a public both in England and America. His next book, "The Man from Limbo", is a mystery novel wherein the adventures that occur in a man’s mind, the things dreamed of, become superimposed on his daily life. His third book, "Sword of God", is an edited condensation of all the sources on the life of Joan of Arc. It reveals Mr. Endore’s thorough knowledge of Old French as well as of modern French. He plans, conditions allowing, to write a series of mystery stories, as well as other novels, after he has finished the Descartes edition which will giv### him scholarly kudos, his doctorat### and the sense of having cleaned u### the past.

He is in his early thirties bu### seems much younger than he is, except, perhaps, when his eyes betra### his moody preoccupations. I hop### he will not take it in bad part if say that in his short life he has carried various kinds of trouble in hi### knapsack. He is somewhat philo## phical in his attitude, has learne by now to take the bad with th### good, and generally distrusts for tune. He is one of those who ma### hope, but does not believe, in tomorrow. He has a dry sense o### humor and is quite aware of th### ironical accent in human life. He ### not a self-conscious Jew. He take his Jewishness rather as a matter of course. He has deliberate kept himself cool on the German situation for the very curious reaso### that he feels obliged to protect himself against what he terms th### heated wildness of those America Jews who are "burning up" over th### fate of their co-religionists.

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