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VCU Menorah Review Summer/Fall 2010
Number 73
For the Enrichment of Jewish Thought

Saul Bellow to Cynthia Ozick on the Holocaust

January 1987

In part of a letter to Cynthia Ozick, Saul Bellow copes gropingly with the Holocaust

It’s perfectly true that “Jewish writers in America” (a repulsive category!) missed what should have been for them the central event of their time, the destruction of European Jewry. I can’t say how our responsibility can be assessed. We (I speak of Jew now and not merely of writers) should have reckoned more fully, more deeply with it. Nobody in America seriously took this on and only a few Jews elsewhere (like Primo Levi) were able to comprehend it at all. The Jews as a people reacted justly to it. So we have Israel, but in the matter of higher comprehension – well, the mental life of the century having been disfigured by the same forces of deformity that produced the Final Solution, there were no minds fit to comprehend. And intellectuals … are trained to expect and demand from art what intellect is unable to do. (Following the foolish conventions of high-mindedness.) All parties then are passing the buck and every honest conscience feels the disgrace of it.

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