The Greatest Need
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The creative life and troubled times of Lily Tobias, a Welsh Jew in Palestine
The first full biography of Lily Tobias (1887-1984) a Jewish writer from Wales: a courageous, idealistic woman who wrote compellingly about Jewish life and experience in the 20th century.
Daughter of Polish immigrant parents, Lily Tobias grew up in the Swansea valley. The family spoke Yiddish at home, English in class and Welsh in the playground, and Lily was always aware of her mixed identity. She was passionate about her rights as a woman in a time of suffrage, as a Jewish woman in a religion that kept men and women separate, as a socialist in a time of industrial change and as a pacifist in the face of the Great War. She worked as a journalist from the age of 14 and slowly began to gain a profile as a speaker on Zionism and as a novelist. She was adamant that a Jewish state was necessary, but also that it should and could only be won peacefully. Her ambition to help establish a homeland for the Jews was fulfilled when she and her businessman husband moved to Palestine in 1936. But the dream was demolished with Phillip Tobias' murder at the hands of a terrorist mob in 1938.
Lily Tobias wrote four novels, and a collection of short stories and the first dramatization for the stage of Daniel Deronda. Her fiction was always topical and drew on her own unique mix of cultures, focusing on her compassionate pacifism and desire for equity for all.
"...absorbing and enjoyable... Tobias was a courageous pioneer with passionate ideals... well-researched and vibrant biography... It is striking how invisible this exceptional woman was, and would still remain but for the determination of Donahaye and others at Honno Press... beautifully written and deserve[s a wide readership.]"
Sipora Levy, The Jewish Chronicle
" ...I was gripped by the story of this fascinating writer and human and wondered how much we can learn from her... Donahaye's work in this book should be seen as a key document to thinking about self-determination, nationhood and pacifism Â– particularly in the context of Wales, Palestine and Israel. Alongside the excellent, moving Losing Israel, it should also remind us that Donahaye is raising important questions Â– and is certainly one of the most significant writers and thinkers working in Wales at the moment."
Nia Davies, click on Wales (IWA)
" Lily did not follow the traditional path set out for her by her parents and Jewish society. She made her own way, becoming a novelist, dramatist, essayist and fierce campaigner at a time where women did not have the vote. A complex and extraordinary individual, it's a wonder that she has not been written about more. In fact, if it wasn't for Jasmine Donahaye's discovery of one of her books 'with the Welsh dragon and Jewish Star of David' in the National Library fifteen years ago, she may never have been written about at all... The Greatest Need is more than a biography. The work spans all sorts of histories: industrial south Wales, London literary circles and British-occupied Palestine. Lily is at the centre of all this, and Donahaye expertly conveys a sense of her limitless, almost frenetic energy... The Greatest Need is an important step in returning such an impressive writer to the annals of literature. For me, the next step is to read her novels. And I'd urge anyone reading this to do the same.
Eluned Gramich, New Welsh Review
Honno has published Lily's novel Eunice Fleet, in our Welsh Women's Classics series. First published in 1933, this is the deeply moving story about the treatment of conscientious objectors during the First World War.
"I crept away from this amazing book both quietly stunned and deeply enlightened."
Lynne Hatwell, www.dovegreyreader.co.uk
First published by Honno in : March 2015