Ear­li­er this week, David Alba­hari wrote about the mad­ness of one-para­graph nov­els and the author’s voice. He has been blog­ging all week for the Vis­it­ing Scribe all week.

Being a Jew­ish writer is no dif­fer­ent from being any oth­er kind of writer. I don’t believe that Jew­ish writ­ers have any spe­cial mis­sion, or that they see the world in a dif­fer­ent way, which would give them any advan­tage over oth­er writ­ers. Only one thing mat­ters when you are a writer: the way you use your lan­guage and what you do with it. It does not mat­ter whether you are reli­gious or sec­u­lar, for­mal­ly edu­cat­ed or une­d­u­cat­ed, involved in tra­di­tion or hav­ing noth­ing to do with it – the only thing that mat­ters is your abil­i­ty to tell sto­ries or sing songs in a way that has not been done before.

So how do we define a Jew­ish writer? This ques­tion is some­times very impor­tant for Jew­ish writ­ers who live in small sec­u­lar Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in the Dias­po­ra, like the one in Ser­bia where I come from. For me, a Jew­ish writer is a writer of Jew­ish ori­gin who writes main­ly on Jew­ish themes.

It can be argued that when a nation­al lit­er­a­ture is defined we nev­er base our def­i­n­i­tion on the themes of lit­er­ary works. This is true but it is because we have oth­er cri­te­ria such as lan­guage and ter­ri­to­ry. We could intro­duce lan­guage into our def­i­n­i­tion of the Jew­ish writer, and there would obvi­ous­ly be at least three: HebrewYid­dish and Ladi­no, but then we would lose a large num­ber of Jew­ish writ­ers writ­ing in non-Jew­ish lan­guages, writ­ers such as Joseph RothSaul Bel­lowBernard Mala­mud, or Dani­lo Kis. And final­ly, it is impos­si­ble to include any spe­cif­ic ter­ri­to­ry in our def­i­n­i­tion as Jew­ish writ­ers live all over the world.

The unique his­to­ry of the Jew­ish peo­ple has con­tributed to the unique posi­tion of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. Ser­bian Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture is both part of a nation­al lit­er­a­ture – because of the fact that Ser­bian Jew­ish writ­ers write in Ser­bian – and part of mul­ti­lin­gual world­wide Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. This means that it would be seen as one of a num­ber of eth­nic lit­er­a­tures that belong to Ser­bian lit­er­a­ture in gen­er­al. In oth­er words, world­wide Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture con­sists of a large num­ber of eth­nic Jew­ish lit­er­a­tures just as the world Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty con­sists of many dif­fer­ent Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties. It is diver­si­ty that makes us – both as a peo­ple and as writ­ers – what we tru­ly are.

David Alba­hari is the author of the new nov­el Leech­es. 

David Alba­hari is the Ser­bian-born Cana­di­an author, most recent­ly, of the nov­el Leech­es.The book is a feat of mag­ic, an exis­ten­tial philo­soph­i­cal nov­el that’s also fun­ny and with enough mys­ter­ies to keep the read­er guess­ing. It’s also one long para­graph — that’s right, a 300-page-long para­graph.

One-Para­graph Nov­els

The Voice

Jew­ish Writer