in the garden


Mar 2001 Journal

previous article:AJR contributes to success of UK’s first Holocaust Memorial Day
next article:For the record

Band of brothers

The US Declaration of Independence states: “We hold this truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” In the same vein Kipling wrote: ‘The Colonel’s lady and Julie O’Grady are sisters under the skin.’ Unfortunately neither is the case, as IQ tests and DNA samples prove. People are simply born unequal (and by this I am not referring to their economic circumstances which is a totally different topic). Sometimes this basic inequality is highlighted by the same family producing not just one, but two, or even more, outstanding talents. In painting we had the Caraccis and the Bellinis, in music assorted Bachs and Strausses, and in literature the Mann brothers, as well as Joshua and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Anglo-Jewish literati include the playwriting twins Peter (Amadeus) and Anthony (Sleuth) Shaffer and the brothers Emmanuel and Barnet Litvinoff. Politics has thrown up such diverse types as Otto and Gregor Strasser, John and Robert Kennedy – fraternally united by assassins’ bullets even in death – and Austen and Neville Chamberlain. Among Anglo-Jewish politicians one could mention the ministerial Silkins and the less elevated Silvermans – as well as Leon Brittan and his financial journalist brother. Their Soviet Russian counterparts were the Kaganovitches whom one would rather not mention, whose sister Bella was rumoured to have been romantically linked to Stalin.

On the distaff side there are the Bronte sisters, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, and AS Byatt and Margaret Drabble, to name but a few.

Even our relatively small refugee community has thrown up three pairs of famous brothers: the Freuds, the Ehrenstein-Eltons, and the Hamburger-Hamlyns.

Lucien and Clement Freud, of course, bear one of the most famous names of the twentieth century – but owe their prominence entirely to their own talents. Lucien, thought to be the finest figurative painter at work in the UK today, had an additional gift for attracting aristocratic sitters and patrons. Clement, the gastronomic guru, sometime MP and dog food salesman, was a similarly gifted networker. (In contrast to his bohemien brother he belongs to the Anglican Church - as he was at pains to point out when erroneously listed among Jewish Members of Parliament). The Freud charisma is still at work in the fourth generation, as exemplified by the (subsequently filmed) novel Hideous Kinky, describing the hippy existence Lucien’s daughter led in 1970s Morocco.

If the star of the Freud siblings rose under the penumbra of their illustrious ancestor, the fame of the Elton brothers is quite overshadowed by that of Wunderkind Ben, respectively their son and nephew. Scions of an academic dynasty, Sir Geoffrey Elton was Regius Professor of History at Oxford, while Lewis had a chair at the University of Surrey. What rather set them apart was that Geoffrey admired, and Lewis loathed, Mrs Thatcher. Ben has obviously inherited Lewis’ radicalism, though, given the puritanical tradition of the Left, one wonders if the father is comfortable with the son’s reliance on smut for comic effect.

The Hamburgers, like the Ehrensteins and the Freuds, were solidly middle class in Germany, and continued their lifestyle as best they could in this country. Michael went to Oxford and became a respected poet and critic. The list of his translations reads like a roll call of 20th century German literature: Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Trakl, Hans Magnus Enzensberger – as well as Paul Celan. Today he lives in Suffolk, diligently cultivating his garden in the literal sense of the word. His brother Paul changed his name to Hamlyn, went into publishing and amassed a veritable fortune. He has been a munificent supporter of good causes, notably in the cultural sphere. He has given deprived children access to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and his recent gift of £17M to the Royal Festival Hall should go a long way towards transforming the South Bank. Oh brother, indeed!
Richard Grunberger

previous article:AJR contributes to success of UK’s first Holocaust Memorial Day
next article:For the record