Many Jewish authors rank among some of the most famous authors of the past century. Whether or not they chose to draw from personal and cultural experiences, these authors have penned some of the greatest and most inspirational novels and stories. These authors did not limit themselves to only a Jewish audience, writing only Jewish books. Their writing is loved by all and continues to fascinate new readers.
J.D. Salinger may not be known for writing Jewish literature, but his book The Catcher in the Rye took hold of the entire nation. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy fame and began to write less and less as the years went on. The Catcher and the Rye became popular among teens for depicting the struggles, alienation, confusion, and rebellion they felt. Many schools banned the book, but today it is considered a quintessential piece of literature for high school students.
Elie Wiesel may not be as famous as other authors, but his story about his experiences in concentration camps makes him an inspiration to us all. Although he has written 57 books, Night still remains his most famous work. This Jewish book shows not only how cruel human beings can be, but how one can return to the light after so much darkness. Dawn and Day complete the trilogy and show that he was able to overcome these tragic events. Wiesel stated, “In Night, I wanted to show the end, the finality of the event. Everything came to an end: man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left. And yet we begin again with night.”
Franz Kafka was one of the most influential German novelists of the 20th century. Though Kafka was deeply spiritual and showed great interest in Jewish culture, he never outright put Jewish characters into his works. However, many literally critics say that his Jewish influences still managed to seep through his writing and into his literary themes. Most of his stories were unfinished, aside from his most famous novella, The Metamorphosis.
Isaac Singer is probably not be a household name for everyone, but he is considered a prominent figure in the Yiddish literary movement. He even won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1978. He was a constant contributor to Jewish newspapers and even after moving to America, he continued to write in Yiddish. Singer was not afraid to write about controversial topics in both his short stories and novels. His stories never directly spoke of personal Jewish beliefs, but his characters were always Jewish. His influences consisted of religious texts, Jewish books, and philosophical books. Even if you don’t speak Yiddish, all his works were translated to English.
Jewish authors and Jewish books have impacted, and continue to impact, American culture, regardless of one’s own beliefs. These authors are not limited to their time period nor culture. They transcend time and will be read for generations to come.