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Fiction

Clara Malraux

During her long and active life Clara Malraux was motivated principally by her feminist convictions and by her growing awareness of herself as a Jew. In her youth she struggled to escape the stifling role assigned to women of the bourgeoisie, to become a participant in life rather than a spectator. Her determination to create a meaningful and engaged life for herself caused her to reject the role of a conventional wife. After the failure of her attempt to forge an egalitarian marriage, she succeeded in making a life for herself by playing an active role in the French Resistance during World War II, going on to a successful career as a writer and activist after the war. In her middle years, her experiences during the war forced her to confront her identity as a Jew. In her essay on the German-Jewish intellectual and salonnière Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Malraux saw these two concerns as intimately linked. “Respect for women and respect for Jews go hand in hand,” she wrote. Born into the assimilated haute bourgeoisie, with little knowledge of Judaism and little identification with Jews, her experiences as a Jewish single mother of an ailing child during the war transformed her into a passionate defender of Israel often in conflict with other left-wing intellectuals.

Adeline Cohnfeldt Lust

Adeline Cohnfeldt Lust wrote popular short stories, editorials, and articles for many newspapers, as well as a novel. She was born in Crefeld, Germany, on April 12, 1860, to Albert and Henrietta (Davis) Cohnfeldt, but left her birthplace at an early age and immigrated to England. There she attended boarding school and studied with private tutors. At age fifteen she was already a published journalist. In 1876, she came to America and settled in New York.

Elisa Lispector

Unlike those of her renowned younger sister Clarice Lispector, Elisa Lispector’s literary works were not widely recognized during her lifetime. Nevertheless, in her forty-year career she steadily published three books of short stories and seven novels, of which the second, No Exílio (In Exile, 1948), openly conveys her Jewish origin, inheritance and allegiance to some aspects of its tradition.

Clarice Lispector

“I can’t sum myself up because it’s impossible to add up a chair and two apples. I’m a chair and two apples. And I don’t add up,” states the female narrator of Clarice Lispector’s novel Agua Viva (The Stream of Life) as she pursues a narrative quest of self-discovery only to realize that her identity is compound and words cannot always convey what she actually feels. If the apple symbolizes knowledge and the chair an aspect of domesticity, this voice is affirming that she is greater than her gender. Despite an intense struggle with words, Lispector’s female protagonists nevertheless burst forth, sparked by unexpected epiphanies which lead them to probe their existential condition with a self-conscious awareness of the limitations of language and of their beleaguered situations. These narrator/protagonists also manifest experiences of displacement and otherness which, rather than inducing alienation, expand the knowledge of self, as exemplified by the words of another female narrator, GH: “He who lives totally is living for others.” Lispector’s prose also transmits the evocative and spiritual sense of the ineffable, an openness to a form of mystical and linguistic reception that transcends the concreteness of the written word to enable her characters and readers to experience a lyrical sense of the sublime, the “unsayable,” which scholar and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man Is Not Alone (1951), recognized as “the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.”

Fanny Lewald

Often compared by critics to George Sand and George Eliot, Fanny Lewald was an enormously productive, successful and respected writer in nineteenth-century Germany. Her early works of the 1840s deal in a committed manner with the political, social and religious questions of the time. Her later popular stories and novels were often first published in serial form in widely-circulated journals. She was also a gifted autobiographical writer. Her Memories of the Year 1848 gives a lively description of that dramatic year in European politics and also of her visit to Paris, where she met Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), a writer whom she greatly admired. Later she became more of a monarchist, convinced that a longer preparation for popular rule was essential; finally, she thought highly of Bismarck because of his “Realpolitik.”

Amy Levy

“Joy is my friend, not sorrow; by strange seas, / In some far land we wandered, long ago,” says Amy Levy in “The Lost Friend.” Here she expresses, as she does in so many poems, her commitment to happiness, an elusive goal despite her many friendships and her successful career as a woman of letters in London in the 1880s. Levy’s sadness and her suicide were primarily the result of what her friend Richard Garnett, British man of letters, called “constitutional melancholy,” yet her letters and other records establish that this gifted writer could be high-spirited and amusing. She was born in London on November 10, 1861, the second of the seven children of Isabel (Levin) Levy and Lewis Levy, a stockbroker. The family, which observed, mildly, the practices of Judaism, had roots in England that went back to the eighteenth century, and had strong ties to the native-born Anglo-Jewish community; nevertheless, given the rejection of religious belief in Levy’s poems, Oscar Wilde was right to say that she “ceased to hold the orthodox doctrines of her nation, retaining, however, a strong race feeling.”

Sonia Levitin

Whether Sonia Levitin is writing picture books, mysteries, humor, historical adventures or Young Adult novels dealing with the struggle of young people to find freedom and meaning in their lives, she says “I’ve come to realize I am always writing my own life story, blending personal experience with research and, of course, imagination...I write for young people because I remember my own youth so well.”

Elma Ehrlich Levinger

Active in an array of Jewish women’s and youth organizations, Elma Ehrlich Levinger was also the author of over thirty books for children and several for adults—all of which emphasize the importance of maintaining Jewish identity in America. Levinger used both drama and the short story as a means of educating young people and women about Jewish history and traditions, hoping to encourage them to participate in Jewish social life.

Emma Levine-Talmi

Emma Levine was born in Warsaw in 1905, the oldest daughter of Asher and Yehudit Levine. She had four siblings: Rachel (1907–1973), who emigrated to Palestine in 1929 with Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir and was among the founders of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:342]Kibbutz[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Ein ha-Horesh, where she worked as a nursery-school teacher and raised her family; Emanuel, who also emigrated to Palestine, raised a family and engaged in light industry in Tel Aviv; Yehuda, who was killed in the Holocaust; the youngest sister, Sarah (1914–1950), who studied at a seminary for nursery-school teachers in Warsaw, worked at Janusz Korczak’s orphanage and emigrated to Palestine with a Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir group. She was a member of Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan before moving with her family to Givatayim, where she established a model kindergarten. She died in childbirth at the age of thirty-six, leaving a husband and two children. Talmi’s parents immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and settled in Tel Aviv, where her father worked as a bookkeeper, writing in his spare time and publishing three books in Hebrew.

Sonya Levien

Sara Opesken Levien (“Sonya” is the Russian diminutive, which she used) was born on December 25, 1888, to Julius and Fanny Opesken in Panimunik, formerly Russia, now Lithuania. (She altered the date later to 1898). By the time her father immigrated to the United States in 1891, she had two younger brothers, Arnold and Max. Sonya’s father changed his name to Levien, the name of the man who had helped him escape from Siberia, where he had been exiled for political activities, and in 1896 brought his family to New York. By the time Sonya, her parents, and her Russian-born brothers were naturalized in 1905, she had two more brothers, Nathan and Edward.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Fiction." (Viewed on January 22, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/fiction>.

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