Call It Sleep Introduction

by Henry Roth

Call It Sleep is the most profound novel of Jewish life that I have ever read by an American. It is a work of high art, written out of the full resources of modernism. It subtly interweaves gutter, cellar, sexual and religious taboos with the overwhelming love between a mother and son. It brings together the darkness and light of Jewish immigrant life before the First World War as experienced by a very young boy, really a child, who depends on his imagination alone to fend off a world so hostile that it begins with his own father.