Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 44: The first cut is a set-piece.

Monday 31st August, 1959, 9.0 p.m.

Rentreé des classes to-morrow. I did manage to get a day out, after all. Did the Great Missenden trek very successfully except for the last leg, where building-up has obscured Fieldfare’s tracks [Fieldfare was the pen-name for an Evening News columnist who wrote guides to walks in rural areas of the Home Counties].

More or less resigned to the 6¼% now; my revised calculation shows that I only lose about 4/- a week, I think, on the 5½% offered by the Temperance. I ought to hope that rates of interest on advances, including advances by local authorities, come down generally; but my human nature being what it is — and I doubt if it’s much worse than the average run of human nature —  I find myself hoping that Building Society rates will go up (the rate of the Friern Barnet U.D.C’s advance to me will remain constant).

Also, meno male, I succeeded in getting off a short story for the J.C. [Jewish Chronicle]. I am not at all sure, this time, whether it will even get printed (I would have been surprised had my “What is a Jew” effort not been printed, at least). Lacking imagination, I was forced to write up a chapter of biography —  the story is called “Service at a Circumcision.” It is a more or less straight account of the Briss — for fictional purposes I made it take place during term, at 1 p.m. (The historical event took place at 2 p.m. while I was on holiday). I have no plot-making ability, so I knew that whatever I wrote would have to be a set-piece description. Even so, I failed to rise to the heights of my theme, which was the awful responsibility of bringing a child into the world. I know I lost no sleep about the fate that might befall you, P.I., [Philip Israel] and that I am doing nothing to try to make the world safe for you to live in. That doesn’t mean, of course, my boy, that I don’t pray ( I can’t pray to anyone, unfortunately, but there’s nothing can be done about that now, but I do “pray that”) that you will have a long, happy life. I confess that my motives in begetting you were not entirely pure and lofty, but very few people, I venture to assert, do have children from wholly pure and lofty motives. Please believe me, though, – I don’t know what to say. I love you? But that raises again the question of whether I am capable of love. I don’t know. Admittedly you give me great happiness, now, when you’re seven months old, and I think you’re happy, too, for by far the greater part of the time. I suppose I want to have a built-in guarantee of your happiness. Forgive this pitiful meandering, Philip. Und das hat dichten wollen!  Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for you to show me up. But then, again, I suppose I mustn’t set too great hopes on you. Mustn’t drive you into making up for my failures. Be healthy, be reasonably successful – I think you have a reasonably happy disposition anyway. I think your old man has, too, really; but, without wishing to make too much of a song and dance, he rather had it taken out of him in his early, formative years – up to 20 – and I hope this won’t happen to you.

Saw Clark of Thames & Hudson today. Handed him completed typescript of God’s Wilderness, though I haven’t had B.R.‘s [Professor Beno Rothenberg] corrections back yet. He sounded me out about translating two other books by B.R. I suppose I ought to have said I would want 4 guineas a thou.; instead I just said I would need till September 30th 1960 to do a book equivalent to God’s Wilderness. But perhaps, in spite of my seemingly monopolistic position, I wouldn’t be able to get more. I think T. & H.’s reaction to an attempt by me to exploit my position might have been to say: thus far and no farther. B.R. told me they gave him £100 advance fee to retain the option over each book he wrote; but even so, they might have decided not to send good money after bad, or for 4 guineas a thou, say, they might have been able to get David Patterson [scholar of Modern Hebrew literature]. Or, if I were in their place, I would put an advt. in the J.C. – unusual, but then it’s unusual not to have translators on tap. And I’m pretty sure an advt. in the J.C. would produce some reasonable translators, even if Clark had to sub their text more heavily than he does mine.

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Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 33: Taxing times

Friday, 2nd January 1959. 11.20 a.m.

Writing this in Holloway Central Library, to be out of the way of Mrs Holland – who “obliges” for E [Edith Witriol] – and her little daughter.

Have kept my diet so far! Have also risen virtuously early. Outburst of tears from E. last night. She depressed after mauling at hospital and I out all day and failing to be “communicative” on my return. Very difficult. Had spat with Mum previously re income-tax demand. She wants to pay schedule A tax at standard rate, though her income is bona fide low enough for her to have to pay far less than the standard rate. But she doesn’t want to reveal her income (rent from tenants), etc. Very difficult, but still – abee gezinnt.

I see the J.C. [The Jewish Chronicle] is offering prizes for the best essay on “What is a Jew?” [sic – Who is a Jew? was the title]. Also very difficult – one must be careful to stick to the terms, I imagine, which are that one must put oneself in the place of a recipient of Ben Gurion’s letter to various Jewish scholars asking them to reply to the question: “What is a Jew?” [sic!] However the prizes: £50, £25 and £10 for each essay printed, are worth competing for. A pity this breaks just at the end of my holiday – perhaps will try to get to J.C. library on the last day.

Witriol Unpublished

Joseph Witriol kept his articles, both published and unpublished. In some cases, I have to admit, it’s understandable that his submissions were rejected. Let’s Dabber Ivrit, from 1983, being a case in point.

Like the wonderful Julie Burchill, who was on Desert island Discs today, sharing with the audience her enthusiasm for Hebrew (this choice refers), my father was a lover of, and indeed an expert in, the language. But his opportunities to talk or listen to normal, conversational Modern Hebrew were very limited. I seem to remember one of his Israeli cousins described his spoken Hebrew as Ivrit shel Shabbat, presumably suggesting a punctilious formality and grammatical precision.

Acknowledging in its subtitle, Miles Kingston’s Let’s Parler Franglaisthe article was rejected by the Jewish Chronicle’s features editor:

 …I personally was greatly amused by it but I fear that it will be lost on the bulk of our readers…

My cynical interpretation of this being

I personally was able to understand the Hebrew, unlike the bulk of our readers…

The piece is a conversation, almost exclusively in Hebrew (albeit with “Heblish/Engrew(?) elements) between two fathers, one of whom is ruefully talking about his children. This character is clearly based on my dad. There is the odd line or two that can raise a chuckle, assuming you know Hebrew, but it lacks the wit and sparkle that much of his writing had.

But then, I struggle to see the humour of the Franglais pieces dans le premier place; C’est a un-truc poney, ÀMHA.

Articles kept in cuttings book

TITLE/DATE PUBLICATION COMMENTS, LINKS ETC PAYMENT
       
BALDUR MADE HISTORY 25/9/1941 EGYPTIAN GAZETTE  WESTERN DESERT PAGE 50 PIASTRES (10/-)
DESERT ENGLISH 10/10/1941 EGYPTIAN GAZETTE WESTERN DESERT PAGE 50 PIASTRES (10/-)
WINTER DRAWERS ON c. November 1941 EGYPTIAN GAZETTE WESTERN DESERT PAGE 50 PIASTRES (10/-)
I MISSED THE BRIDE 11/09/1943 TRIPOLI TIMES “I presume that… I asked for payment” NO PAYMENT
YIDDISH – THREAT OF ITS “RAPID DISAPPEARANCE”  18/04/1947 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £3-3-0
THE HEBREW OF THE BIBLE 12/09/1947 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £3-3-0
THE HEBREW OF THE MISHNA 20/08/1948 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £4-4-0
THE OLD TESTAMENT AS LITERATURE August 1949 THE JEWISH MONTHLY “I returned the cheque, but the JM re-returned it…” £2-2-0
MODERN HEBREW AND MR KOESTLER 16/12/1949 ZIONIST REVIEW   £3-3-0
YOUNG ZIONISTS NEVER DIE! 30/12/1949 ZIONIST REVIEW   £3-3-0
HEBREW UNLIMITED 06/01/1950 ZIONIST REVIEW PLUS EXPENSES £2-2-0
HEINE THE JEW July 1950 THE JEWISH MONTHLY editor advised that he received several  letters expressing admiration for article £2-2-0
ANGLO-JEWRY AND MODERN HEBREW 01/09/1950 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £6-0-0
I SHOULD LIVE SO! 22/06/1951 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE note added re sub-editing £5-5-0
THE ANGLO-JEWISH HERITAGE 14/09/1951 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE ink corrections added where printed article deviated from his original typescript £4-4-0
MACHMANSHIP 19/10/1951 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE follow-up letters in 9/11/51 issue Original typescript £6-6-0
MEMOIRS OF A JEWISH MOTHER 16/11/1951 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £6-6-0
SHADCHANSHIP 29/02/1952 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE  Original typescript £6-6-0
OFFN PRIPPETCHEK 27/06/1952 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £7-7-0
THE KOL NIDREI PRAYER 26/09/1952 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE  Original typescript £5-5-0
THE HEBREW-ARAMAIC ELEMENTS IN THE YIDDISH LANGUAGE 01/05/1953 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE follow-up letters in subsequent issues £8-8-0
THE YOUNG TCHERNICHOVSKI 25/09/1953 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE  Original typescript £5-5-0
LONDON’S LIBRARIES OF JEWISH INTEREST 08/01/1954 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE “much cut” from his Original typescript £5-5-0
SHOCKLING IN THE BALANCE 09/04/1954 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE  Original typescript £5-5-0
WHAT IS A YIDDISHISM? 28/05/1954 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £4-4-0
HEINREICH HEINE: Two Studies of His Thought and Feeling by William Rose  06/04/1956 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW (W Rose reviewed HH book trans. by JW in 3/8/56 JC) £5-5-0
SOME YIDDISH LOCUTIONS Summer 1956 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY note re JC review of JQ quoting this article £2-2-0
OTHER PEOPLE’S VINEYARDS Literary Essays by D Daiches Autumn 1956 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY BOOK REVIEW “mangled editorially” £1-1-0
PROFESSOR’S POET Heinrich Heine by E Butler 18/01/1957 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW Original typescript £2-2-0
TRAGEDY OF HEINE Heinreich Heine: A Biographical Anthology Ed. H Bieber 07/06/1957 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £2-2-0
YIDDISH HUMOUR Handbook of Jewish Words and Expressions by C Hawkins 22/11/1957 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE “My heading was Huz Bizioniss? (…the allusion too recondite…)” £1-11-6
WHO IS A JEW? A Reply to Mr. Ben-Gurion 15/05/1959 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE second prize in Essay Competition £26-5-0
LETTER TO A BAAL SIMCHA 04/03/1960 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE note about article and sketches by Edith Witriol Original typescript £5-5-0
PSYCHOLOGIST-ENTERTAINER How to Live With Yourself by M Banks 09/06/1961 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW not noted
ENFANT PERDU Heine, The Tragic Satirist by S Prawer 25/08/1961 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW “approx. the first third of my “copy”!  Handwritten draft not noted
POLISH RUSSIAN ELEMENTS IN YIDDISH 16/02/1962 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE noted as reprint (?) See also Journal Part 89 £11-11-0
THE OTHER GERMANY From Gottsched to Hebbel by G Mason 13/04/1962 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW  various corrections/errors noted £3-3-0
IN OLD VIENNA Karl Kraus…by H Kohn 12/10/1962 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW Original typescript £5-0-0
BEYOND REALISM Blood From the Sky by P Rawicz 15/05/1964 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £3-13-6
MOTHERS AND SONS Vertical and Horizontal by L Ross/ Because I was Flesh by E Dahlberg 22/05/1964 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £4-4-0
MASSACRE IN MAYENCE Belmarsh by C Davis  18/09/1964 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW – not in cuttings book £3-13-6
BOY FROM ORPHANAGE The Woman From Bessarabia by M Levinson 06/11/1964 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £4-4-0
A WANDERING TAILOR The Stormy Life of Laz Roitshvantz by I Ehrenburg 12/03/1965 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £7-7-0
MILK FOR THE MIKVA Valley of Exile by I Olbracht 27/08/1965 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £6-6-0
WHAT’S IN A NAME? 05/11/1965 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £12-0-0
HIGH JINKS IN INDIA Clown on Fire by A Judah 03/12/1965 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £3-3-0
YIDDISH HUMOUR Royte Pomerantsen, or How to Laugh in Yiddish ed. I Olsvanger 11/03/1966 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £4-0-0
A VANISHED WORLD Dvinsk: Its Rise and Decline by Y Flior 25/03/1966 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW £4-0-0
NOTHING BUT A POET Heine by M Spann 31/03/1967 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW “commissioned May 6th 1966!” not noted
A TRAGIC LANGUAGE Voices From The Yiddish eds. I Howe and E Greenberg 24/03/1972 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE BOOK REVIEW comment about article’s genesis not noted
LID OFF HASMONEAN 04/11/1977 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE lengthy comment about background to article not noted
WOMEN DON’T COUNT 29/09/1978 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £30.00
TORAH – NEW LIGHT FOR OLD 27/10/1978 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE “…title changed, and large chunks hacked out…” not noted
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SHULMANSHIP 09/11/1979 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   £30.00
J AND NON-J VOCAB 29/02/1980 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE lengthy comment about background to article £30.00
ADVANCED SHULMANSHIP 07/11/1980 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE “probably my feeblest effort of all time…” £40.00
YIDDISH AND GERMAN Autumn 1981 THE INCORPORATED LINGUIST also long letter in Spring 1982 issue not noted
NAMING NAMES 31/01/1986 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   not noted
CAN’T WOMEN MAKE UP A MINYAN? 05/09/1986 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE   not noted
CELEBRATING THE SABBATH IN GOURMET STYLE 13/01/1989 THE JEWISH CHRONICLE
lengthy comment about background to article.
 Follow-up letters in subsequent issues
£50.00

 

Lid Off Hasmonean

This article has already been referred to in connection with Journal entries relating to Hasmonean.

Lid off Hasmonean was published in The Jewish Chronicle, dated 4th November 1977 and under that date he added to his cuttings book:

Twelve years since the last feature article in the J.C; 5½ years since my last review in the J.C. In the meantime I had submitted an article – Jewish Forenames – which was accepted, but which I then asked them not to publish because, or rather unless, they printed G-d, which they declined to do.

I also submitted, unsuccessfully, two articles “lifted” from my (unpublished) book on Yiddish, and more recently an article on “Neologisms in Modern Hebrew” which, too, was rejected by the Features Editor Meir Persoff.

My title for the attached article was Hasmo, I wrote Hasmonean Secondary School (not Grammar) and the parenthesis about my retirement was added by the J.C. sub – good (I had mentioned the fact of my retirement in a covering letter).

Both this article and the one on Jewish forenames are mentioned in Part V of The Witriol Dairies as featured on melchettmike’s blog.

Sketches by Edith, Words by Joseph

“The Spring Bride”, a 24 page supplement published with The Jewish Chronicle of March 4, 1960 included Letter to a Baal Simcha by my father.

In his cuttings book he added a note:

13/3/59.  I was asked to do “an article in lighter vein” on “Mechutanship” or “On Being a Mechutan” for a J.C. “Brides and Homes” supplement. This was the best I could do. The best thing I can say in favour is that the whole process from insemination to parturition [did my very recent birth influence his choice of metaphor!?] took only a week or so; the actual writing of the first draft only a few hours. Edith’s sketches, too, took only an hour or so; though rejected for publication they stay here [i.e. in his cuttings book] to testify to a happy collaboration.

My mother’s sketches for the wedding article

In 1951, my father had written an article on Machmanship for The JC. Clearly the paper by now had him down as Anglo-Jewry’s Stephen Potter.

 

Who is a Jew?

Here is the link to the article  Who is a Jew? published in The Jewish Chronicle, 15th May 1959.

From my father’s Journal dated 3rd May:

I gained second prize – 25 guineas – in the J.C. Essay Competition. They rang up for me to give them some dope, and a photograph, for their “Incidentally” column. Rather depressing to think this is the nearest to fame I shall ever get. The essay itself was a feeble affair; the lucid analysis, firm grasp of all the problems raised, are conspicuously absent. A few Hebrew and Yiddish phrases and – perhaps it is not unfair to say – a general readability – gained it the prize, I suppose.

He told The Jewish Chronicle’s diarist that, at present,

my translation work and eleven-week-old son, Philip Israel, occupy all my time.

The diary piece also referred to his many “scholarly and witty articles” for the paper and that he was involved in the Ajex out-door speaking campaign sponsored by the Defence Committee of The Board of Deputies.

Twenty-one years later, in what I think was his sole appearance in The Times Letters To The Editor page, he gave a terse rejoinder to a letter from Leo Abse, both published under the heading of Who is a Jew?

The winner of The Jewish Chronicle competition, incidentally, was Rabbi Ira Eisenstein a major figure in the Reconstructionist movement of American Judaism.

The Young Tchernichovski

Published in The Jewish Chronicle of September 25, 1953, this article, on The Young Tchernichovski,  by my father is an example of his erudition and philological expertise.

The Israeli “hymn” referred to in the article is still part of the Israeli dancing repertoire usually, dafka, in an instrumental version. Just as dafkaesque, Rav Youtube’s seemingly unique video for this Zionist anthem (albeit with its “universalist aspirations”) features an Arab-Jewish choir. Dayan Google also led me to this version of the song which however schmaltzy is somewhat more appropriate.

As mentioned before, for technical reasons –  foremost of which being my technical inexpertise – the link is to a pdf file which may require some manipulation (zooming etc) in order to read satisfactorily.

The Hebrew of the Bible

This is the link to an article for The Jewish Chronicle dated September 12, 1947, The Hebrew of The Bible.

It opens, possibly somewhat lethargically, as a pdf file and may need manipulation to read clearly. He notes in his cuttings scrapbook that he was paid three guineas. Based on his preserved cuttings, this was his second published JC article, the first being an article on Yiddish, the previous post on this site.

First Jewish Chronicle article

This is my father’s first article in The Jewish Chronicle. At least, it is the first one in the cuttings book in which he preserved his published articles and reviews. He noted that he was paid three guineas for it.

I have uploaded it in this post as a pdf file from the JC archives which may take a little while to open.

It summarises some of the key points he makes at greater length in Mumme Loohshen – an Anatomy of the Yiddish Language I note he used a different transcription in the article, namely mamme lushen.