Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
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Book: Two Worlds / Promised Land

Author: David Daiches

Details: (c) 1957, 1997 David Daiches ; Pub 1997 Canongate Books; ISBN 0-86241-704-X

Verdict: Two Worlds is an interesting biography and piece of social history

Reasons for reading it / how it came into my hands: I deliberately headed to my parents' without enough books for the return journey, knowing I'd be able to borrow something from them. So I asked Maman for something she thought I'd like, that was in the format of a fairly small paperback and that she could spare if it ended up in Dundee until next time I see the parents.

Two Worlds is basically Daiches' account of growing up as an Orthodox Jew in Edinburgh between the wars. This makes interesting reading; Daiches is not the most engaging writer ever (he's mainly a literary critic rather than a novelist), and he rambles and repeats himself a bit, but he's not horribly dull to read either. I particularly liked his linguistic comments and identification of 'Edinburgh Yiddish' as a distinct, though short-lived dialect.

I can identify with his description of the 'two worlds' of the title; he is very keen to emphasize that he did not consider his Jewish life to be in conflict with his secular existence. I think my attitude to being part of a minority religion is quite similar to his, although are circumstances are very different, especially since he was brought up Orthodox so in a way had a harder time fitting into normal society than I do.

The second story, Promised Land, I thought didn't contribute very much. It covers much of the same ground as Two Worlds, but written in a rather more poetic style and framed directly as a biography of Daiches' father (rather than being an ostensible account of the author's childhood which is effectively a biography of his father anyway).

To be honest, Two Worlds is of pretty specialist interest. It's worth reading if you're really excited about social history in ways that it can contribute to. For my part, I'm quite interested in the portrait of what anglo-Orthodox Judaism was like before it became entrenched in the way it is today. Although having said that, there are many provincial Orthodox communities, including the modern Edinburgh one, which are a lot less tribalistic than the official party line espoused by the urban communities.
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