Page 165 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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S ILBERSCHLAG---- JACOB FICHMAN
159
apparent on every page of his prose which is measured, cadenced,
well-balanced. And his best essays depict writers who resemble
him temperamentally and influenced him markedly: the father
of the Hebrew novel, Abraham Mapu, and the singer of the spirit
of Judaism, Hayyim Nahman Bialik. Personal recollections,
combined with a loving analysis of their work, make for the
unique charm of his essays which are neither strictly impression-
istic nor strictly objective but rather a composite of the two,
sufficiently weighty to a ttra c t the scholar and sufficiently interest-
ing to hold the attention of the general reader.
Fichman indulges in a form of prose which may be called
associational criticism. I t instructs while it relates bits of auto-
biography and creates an atmosphere of warmth, intimacy and
receptivity. Fichman shuns criticism of problems because the
abstract is too impersonal to a ttrac t this most personal of poets.
When he is impelled or rather compelled — and as a prolific
editor he is frequently compelled — to write a disquisition on an
abstract theme, he generalizes with care and understanding.
In an essay on “The Concept of Lyricism” — one of his best
and profoundest — he makes these memorable and valuable
observations:
“ In the pure lyrical expression we reveal ourselves, our hidden
relationship to the world, hidden perhaps from ourselves. Because
here, in the pure singing of the blood, is the final measuring rod,
the final summary of our evaluation of the world . . . I t is not
known th a t the world becomes known . . . not according to what
we think about it but according to what we sing about it. This
lyricism in its absolute purity is, then, more of a miracle than any
other literary mode. Its true means are not words, not even metre,
bu t some miraculous ability to kindle expressions and conceal
them simultaneously . . .” This, perhaps, is not a statement of
objective significance but a measure of the earnestness with which
a craftsman evaluates, almost sings, about his own craft.
To all forms of literature which attracted him, even to books
for children and textbooks for adolescents, Fichman brought
the gift of immaculate writing and careful editorship. Like his
illustrious contemporary, William Butler Yeats, he wrote and
re-wrote his poems and essays. This is, perhaps, an indication of
inner restlessness beneath the calm surface of his prose and
poetry, a dissatisfaction with himself and, above all, a love for
the perfect expression which is the mark of the true artist.