The Arty Semite

The Tragic Visions of Author Jakov Lind Re-Examined

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

The Austrian-British writer Jakov Lind, (born Heinz Landwirth to a Viennese Jewish family) led a wildly adventurous life of the kind which other authors, like Jerzy Kosinski, merely invented for themselves.

After the 1938 Anschluss, Lind (1927-2007) was sent on a “kindertransport” (children’s train) to Holland. There, in 1943, he went underground, posing as a Dutch laborer. To better conceal his true identity, he obtained a job for the rest of the war inside Nazi Germany as courier for the Luftwaffe.

He reached Palestine in 1946, by again lying about his identity, and from there he moved to London, where he would remain. This complex trajectory underlies the authentically harsh aggressiveness of his books, three of which have recently been reprinted: “Soul of Wood,” (NYRB Classics); “Landscape in Concrete (Open Letter Books); and “Ergo.”

Joshua Cohen has noted his importance in the pages of the Forward and all three of the novels are skillfully translated by New York-born Jewish translator Ralph Manheim (1907- 1992), whose career began with a 1943 translation of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (Houghton Mifflin), and later featured “Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police,” (Da Capo Press, 1999) from the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Such grim material was good preparation for Lind’s prose, which narrates the unimaginable with uncommon savagery. Lind’s depiction of wartime life has been likened to “The Good Soldier Svejk” a satirical 1923 novel by Jaroslav Hasek, but Lind lacks the humor and human warmth of Hasek, being closer to Bertolt Brecht’s later brutalist, profane dramatization, “Schweik in the Second World War.”

The title novella in “Soul of Wood” is about a one-legged World War I veteran who, when World War II begins, drags a paralyzed Jewish boy to a mountain hideaway after his parents are deported. Returning to Vienna, the veteran is locked up in a lunatic asylum where he helps a psychiatrist to euthanize other patients.

Lind’s world is a grotesque nightmare, yet as time elapses from the unbearable historical incidents alluded to in these cruel stories, a wider public has finally found the courage to face them. As “Writing After Hitler: The Work of Jakov Lind,” (University of Wales Press; 2001) a collection of scholarly articles, explains, Lind’s works explore the implications of living and writing “after all that occurred under Hitler.”

Watch Jakov Lind’s daughter, Oona Lind Napier, read from his prose at the “Deya Hey Days Poetry Festival” at Deià on the Spanish island of Majorca.

And here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jakov Lind, Jerzy Kosinski, Joshua Cohen, Ralph Manheim

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.