Kinder Sculpture

 

May 2004 Journal

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RG's Interface

Midwives to genius Wagner famously declared Jews spiritually sterile, and therefore incapable of creating great art. His 'creativity libel' has since been refuted by outstanding composers (Mahler, Schönberg), writers (Kafka, Proust), painters (Chagall), etc.

Even so, absolute genius is always in short supply. What can be claimed for the Jews is their early recognition of, and support for, great innovators. Ibsen was powerfully helped by the critic Georg Brandes, and Hauptman by the director Otto Brahms. Thanks to Siegfried Trebitsch's translation, Shaw was more widely performed in Germany than Britain.

Plays Michael Hasting's Calico (Duke of York's) focuses on James Joyce, another cultural mould-breaker with Jewish connections. Joyce's best friend in Trieste was Italo Svevo, who served him as the model for Leopold Bloom in Ulysses; other Jews close to him were his daughter-in-law and his lawyer in Paris.

In June, Notting Hill's Gate Theatre will stage the Arab-Israeli Cookbook, with a mixed cast who intermingle personal biographies with recipes from their national cuisine.

Films Jews appear as protagonists in three current films of widely different genres. The Statement brings to the screen Brian Moore's novel about a high-ranking Vichy official involved in the Holocaust whom the Church helped to escape justice after the war. Suzie Gold is a frothy comedy about ethnicity along the lines of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but set in Golders Green. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is a box-office hit that taps into moviegoers' taste for sado-masochism and reprises the age-old charge of Jewish deicide.

Genius of the violin This London-based Fiddler-fest in April featured four virtuosi, half of them Jewish. One was Ida Haendel, a child prodigy in the interwar years who in 1989 insisted that the jury judging the Carl Flesch competition award first prize to another participant, the then 15-year-old Maxim Vengerov.

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