Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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S. J. AGNON AT S EVENTY
By
S
h im o n
H
a l k in
*
I
CREATIVE writer like S. J. Agnon, whose influence will
own age which feels his impact intimately and intensely. Every
great artist, in his desire to convey a total image of life, imputes
a quality of perfection to life as he pours it into his literary
molds. Thus he excites a yearning for perfection in those who
come in contact with his work and his
Weltanschauung.
The
magnetic bond between the creative writer and his working ma-
terial derives basically from the necessity to enhance the material
and bring it back to its intrinsic source, to repair the defects of
the mundane world by exposing their reflection in the higher
spheres, from primordial formation and creation to nobility.
Thus, whoever enters the domain of the creative writer becomes,
according to the degree of the rapport between the writer and
his age, a partner in the mystical quest which represents the
writer’s world outlook. He initiates an ascent on a celestial
ladder, progressing in reverse order from a lower to a higher
sphere. This is the road to great art taken, consciously or un-
consciously, by S. J. Agnon; and the reader who enters his literary
precinct surrenders, knowingly or unknowingly, to its alluring
spell. Divine yearnings permeate the atmosphere of his creative
work from its inception to the present day, and the hearts of its
devotees open spontaneously to receive its bounty.
When, in addition to the above aspect of his work, which
creative writers have always had in common, one considers the
nature of the sources from which Agnon is nourished, one is
able better to appreciate his impact on the Jewish reader, who is
ever ready to subject himself to Agnon with a sweet surrender.
There is no doubt, as some critics contend, that Agnon is the
only totally Jewish writer in modern Hebrew literature, an
author whose writings embody the whole sweep of Jewish history.
He stands within the fold, both in content and in form, in his
conception not only of man but also of pre-human existence:
mineral, animal and vegetable. There has been considerable
comment about this extraordinary phenomenon of a contem-
porary Jewish poet whose wine has been drawn from old stores
and who has also fashioned for himself new bottles with a unique
already been rewarded by his
* Translated by Yaakov Reuel.
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