A few weeks ago my first novel, The Legacy, was published in America. Although a work of fiction, it has turned out to be quite eerily prescient.
It took me more years to write than I care to admit. Most of that time I was staring at a blank screen telling myself that writing a novel was beyond me.
I was merely a journalist who analysed current issues. Other, superior beings were creatives who could excavate from the recesses of their psyche a page-turning plot and characters who leapt from the page.
Not me. Why, then, was I unable to get out of my mind the framework of a story that had floated into it?
I didn’t dare tell anyone anything about it. I knew it would only take a curled lip, a stifled laugh, a look of pity, and the whole thing would run through my fingers like sand.
I plucked up courage to tell my London literary agent, Luigi Bonomi. “It’s a great story, “said Luigi; “write it.” Over the ensuing years he’d ask periodically how it was coming along. “I can’t do it,” I’d moan. “You’re a writer!” he’d say in exasperation. “Stop moaning! Just write!”
I vowed I wouldn’t write another book until it was finished. I wrote part of it and sent it to Luigi. “This is really promising,” he said. “You’re only saying that because you like me,” I said. I finished it. Luigi loved it.
What’s remarkable is the current resonance of the story that formed in my mind all those years ago. While writing the novel, I was astonished to find a particular historical event in my story suddenly exploding into public controversy, involving a contemporary foreign politician with an identical name to one of my central characters (which I promptly changed).
The Legacy is a historical mystery dealing with conflicted British Jewish identity. It’s set in Britain, eastern Europe and Israel and spans many centuries. It’s also about family relationships, love and loyalty, death and grief.
I wanted in particular to get under the skin of antisemitism and ask the giant, never-ending question: why do they hate us? What does their hating us do to us? And what is this thing called the Jewish people that causes us so much trouble?
Then the antisemitism row exploded in the Labour party and I was amazed — not at the antisemitism on the left but the fact that, after years of pretending it wasn’t what it was, people were now calling it by its name.
It was obvious why. That mural depicting Jewish bankers was the point at which the antisemitism could no longer be denied.
It’s also obvious that it won’t be dealt with. For it’s simply impossible for Jeremy Corbyn and every other true believer on the left ever to accept that anyone on their side of politics can be antisemitic.
That’s because they tell themselves that to be on the left is axiomatically to be virtuous and moral and anti-racist. Antisemitism therefore can only exist on the right, who are intrinsically evil because they are not the left.
That’s why Labour members have come up with the comically revealing claim that the antisemitism charge is a lie — created by an anti-Corbyn Jewish conspiracy!
I know all this because I used to identify with the left. And now I have created one of them in my novel.
Now it’s out there, I’ve just about stopped hiding behind the sofa with my fingers in my ears. Readers are actually saying they enjoyed it! Some very nice reviews have appeared on the Amazon site.
One reader has written: “If only the antisemites of the world would read it. Will the NYT [New York Times] review it? Probably not. They covered up the Holocaust; why would they review this book?” Another has written: “ In the unequal Arab-Israeli war of propaganda this is a welcome breath of truth.” So you can see why I’m not holding my own breath for the mainstream media reviews.
What’s delighted me more than anything is that readers tell me it’s a page-turner they can’t put down. More than one has urged me to write a sequel because they’re desperate to know what eventually happens to a particular character.
Wow! When they tell me this, I look instinctively over my shoulder. They must be talking about a real novelist. They can’t possibly be talking about me.