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Inventing the IsraeliteJewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France$
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Maurice Samuels

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804763844

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804763844.001.0001

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Between Realism and Idealism: Ben-Lévi and the Reformist Impulse

Between Realism and Idealism: Ben-Lévi and the Reformist Impulse

(p.74) Two Between Realism and Idealism: Ben-Lévi and the Reformist Impulse
Inventing the Israelite
Stanford University Press

In the 1840s, French Jews became something of a literary fashion, thanks to Eugène Sue's 1844 bestseller Le juif errant (The Wandering Jew). This chapter examines the reaction of a writer for the Reform Jewish newspaper Les Archives Israélites to fictional stereotypes against Jews. Using the pseudonym Ben-Lévi, the writer commends Sue for his portrayal of the Jew in Le juif errant, but laments that he does not provide a realistic depiction of the Wandering Jew. In an article published in 1842, Ben-Lévi criticized the way Jews were represented in French literature and accused popular writers, particularly writers of fiction, of sacrificing truth to convention. His fiction fuses realism with idealism and uses it to advocate a new, Reform vision as a solution to the dilemmas of modernity. In many ways, Ben-Lévi is similar to Marcel Proust, who may actually be his literary descendant. Moreover, Ben-Lévi based his pseudonym on Godchaux Baruch Weil, Proust's great-uncle and a writer for Les Archives Israélites during the 1840s.

Keywords:   French Jews, Eugène Sue, Wandering Jew, Les Archives Israélites, realism, idealism, French literature, Ben-Lévi, Marcel Proust, Godchaux Baruch Weil

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