Heinrich Heine weighs in on the advantages to assimilation in this period with his fragmentary novel The Rabbi from Bacherach
, where religiously raised Jewish children feel comforted when they hear the Tale of the Nibelungen from Father Rhein, the personification of a river that figures generally for German national myth and, in Heine's story, as a possible source of comfort for partially assimilated minorities.
Here, early and late works with more or less overt Jewish content are discussed and Der Rabbi von Bacherach
in its various phases is analysed at length.
But Wirth-Nesher goes on to offer persuasive evidence that Howells's preference for "Yekl" over "Yankel" is drawn not from the former name's prevalence in the streets of the "New York Ghetto" evoked in Howells's subtitle but from the character "Jakel [Yekl] the Fool" in Heine's fragmentary novel The Rabbi of Bacherach
(1840), a character whose name and whose talk both take place in a mock Frankfurt dialect the reader is meant to take as proto-Yiddish.
The volume's editor, Mark Gelber, demonstrates how Heine--and antisemitic writers later in the century--participates in the construction of the noble Sephardic Jew as an alternative to the degenerate or degenerating Ashkenaz in The Rabbi from Bacherach
, beauty director of Company magazine, said: 'Beauty is not only about flawless features and perfect hair.
I was listening to a Burt Bacherach
song, The Look of Love, on the radio," he recalls.
Heine's fragmentary Der Rabbi von Bacherach
illustrates a tripartite historical movement: the security of Jewish tradition is threatened by the Christian environment, necessitating the search for a new orientation.
Although the shtetl narrative undoubtedly now takes on an anti-modern, anti-bourgeois and anti-assimilationist stance, Isenberg distorts the picture somewhat by omitting any reference to important nineteenth-century precursors of the nostalgic tradition of ghetto writing, most notably Heine's Der Rabbi von Bacherach
(1824-40), Aron Bernstein's Vogele der Maggid (1858) and Leopold Kompert's four collections of ghetto stories Aus dem Ghetto (1848), Neue Geschichten aus dem Ghetto (1860), Bohmische Juden (1851) and Geschichten einer Gasse (1865).
I find it incomprehensible and misleading that Heine's Rabbi von Bacherach
is placed at the beginning of the tradition of ghetto fiction and not treated in the context of the German-Jewish historical novel of the nineteenth century; I regret that the otherwise excellent article on the German-Jewish historical novel omits Berthold Auerbach's works Spinoza (1837) and Dichter und Kaufmann (1840) (they are mentioned in the entry on Auerbach's Dorfgeschichten), and many other examples of this genre such as Eugen Rispart's and Salomon Kohn's historical narratives; I wonder why the three centuries from 1382 to 1689 are completely overlooked, and why Court Jews, Baroque 'Judenchristen', or the unrest caused by the appearance of the false messiah Sabettai Zewi in 1666 do not warrant a mention.