Chaim Bermant - Jericho Sleep Alone (1964)
- Dave Martin
- 1 January 2005
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
Part Bildungsroman, part hymn to the city of Glasgow, Jericho Sleep Alone is without a doubt the finest book written about the Scots-Jewish experience. From Bar Mitzvah to an unfulfilling teaching career, Jericho Eli Broock finds himself a perennial outsider and unlucky in love, neither his on-off affair with the flighty Ninna or his financially prudent dalliance with the homely Camilla coming to fruition. Will the sometimes oppressive aid of the Jewish community make all well in his world?
Telling the tale from the awkward pastoral of Jericho's time on kibbutz to his unhappy homecoming with effervescent humour and acute observation, Chaim Icyk Bermant, A Polish Jew and rabbi's son who immigrated to Glasgow at the age of eight, weaves the story of one ethnic minority into the greater tapestry of Scottish life. Jericho Sleeps Alone is notable not merely for being the first of Bermant's 31 books, or for shining a light on a community not keen to draw attention to itself, but for doing so with such a humanising candour, wit and acerbic affection. Despite the old Talmudic saying 'Meshane Hamokom Meshane Hamazel' (a change of place is a change of fortune), Bermant, who was a member of the Zionist youth group Bnei Akiva in Glasgow, twice left these shores to settle in Israel but returned home both times.
While he later left Scotland for the literary lights of London, he never lost his fondness for his adopted homeland, or for its whisky, of which he was an avowed connoisseur. With a further Scottish connection as a screenwriter for STV, and returning to Glasgow for the setting of The Second Mrs Whitberg (1976), it was as an irascible columnist for the Jewish Chronicle, railing against holocaust museums for their 'pernicious effect on Jewish life', that Bermant became an infamous figure in Anglo-Jewish life.
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