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Cynthia Ozick Biography

(1928– ), Art and Ardor: Essays by Cynthia Ozick, Trust, The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories

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American novelist and short-story writer, born in New York City, educated at New York and Ohio State Universities. In her essay ‘Towards a New Yiddish: Note’ in Art and Ardor: Essays by Cynthia Ozick (1983), Ozick describes herself as ‘a third-generation American Jew … perfectly at home and yet perfectly insecure, perfectly acculturated and yet perfectly marginal’. Her imaginative expression of the sense of the ambiguous status of the Jew in America has made Ozick one of the most provocative of contemporary Jewish American writers. Her first work of fiction was a novel, Trust (1966), but it was her stories, particularly ‘The Pagan Rabbi’, ‘Bloodshed’, and ‘Usurpation’, which brought her to the attention of the reading public. She has more recently been preoccupied with the problems of Jewish aestheticism, and has expressed in her nonfiction prose the conviction that, for the Jew, art is an idolatrous activity. Despite this, she continues to write fiction of a consistently high standard of intelligent, creative expression. Her early stories are collected in The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories (1971); other important works of fiction include Bloodshed and Three Novellas (1976), Levitations: Five Fictions (1982), The Cannibal Galaxy (1983), The Messiah of Stockholm (1987), and The Shawl (1989). Among her non-fiction works are Metaphor and Memory (1988), What Henry James Knew and Other Essays on Writers (1993), and Portrait of the Artist as a Bad Character and Other Essays on Writing (1994). Sanford Pinsker's The Uncompromising Fiction of Cynthia Ozick (1987) is a study of her fiction which emphasizes her interests in mysticism and spiritualism.

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