His People’s Writer
“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
On the day after Yom HaShaoh, we pay tribute to Karoly Pap, the Hungarian writer whose 1937 novel, Azarel, incensed his Jewish contemporaries—and who, with many of them, died in Bergen-Belsen just five years later. In 2009, Sasha Weiss revisited Pap’s controversial novel, the only one of his books available in English, which tells the story of a young boy torn between his desire to win his father’s approval and distaste for his family’s new brand of reform Jewish observance.
Critics accused Pap, who was born in 1897 and whose father was the chief rabbi of Sopron in Western Hungary, of attacking his own upbringing, but as Weiss explains, he was issuing a wider call for self-scrutiny to the Jews of Hungary:
“What I’ve been criticized for and will yet be criticized for is completely true,” he said in a speech at the time. “The book is ruthless. Yet it was precisely only through this ruthlessness that I could achieve what I wanted, which was for my book to make itself felt all the way down to that depth of the Jewish soul… who could be pained more than I by the fact that the best of my people’s soul is accessible only through ruthless words and writing? I, who am this people’s writer?”
Read Child’s Play, by Sasha Weiss
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.