Wednesday, April 19, 2017
S.Y. Agnon (1888–1970), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, is the one modern master among writers of Hebrew fiction
Robert Alter in the New York Review of Books:
Jeffrey Saks has undertaken a heroic task in assembling the Agnon Library, using existing translations, which generally have been revised, and commissioning English versions of previously untranslated books. It is not quite a complete works because some books could not be included for reasons of copyright or on other grounds. The most unfortunate omission is Agnon’s modernist masterpiece, Only Yesterday (1945), a wrenching and richly inventive novel about a naive young Zionist’s failed attempt to take root in the land, which unfolds in Jaffa and Jerusalem in the early years of the twentieth century.
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (his original family name was Czaczkes) was born in Buczacz, a town of about 15,000, over half of whom were Jews, that at one time belonged to Poland, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the late eighteenth century until the end of World War I, and is now in western Ukraine. In an Orthodox home, under the supervision of his learned father, he was given a thorough education in the classic Jewish texts, from the Bible with its medieval Hebrew exegetes to the Talmud, and he would draw on this background extensively throughout his career. But his family also engaged a German tutor for him, and he read Goethe, Schiller, and other German writers with his mother. The adolescent Agnon was drawn to Zionism, a movement then less than ten years old, and in 1908, when he was nineteen, he immigrated to Palestine.
Posted by S. Abbas Raza at 02:21 PM | Permalink