Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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51
H
a lk i n
S.
J . A
gnon
of acknowledging the religious enthusiasm that inspires a poet
like Agnon unreservedly to embrace human life and its revela-
tions in the soul of the individual.
I ll
Let us now pass from ethos to myth. These filmy garbs spun
by S. J. Agnon for his
Weltanschauung,
shimmering in a twilight
zone between appearance and reality, will kindle their Jewish
luminescence in the eyes of posterity, however dismally our own
lost generation may fail to appreciate their true splendor. The
radiant light Agnon suffuses into his writings stems from his
childhood experiences and from his youthful longings for future
happiness. Even in his earliest realistic stories and up to and
including his
Sippur Pashut,
which show him deserting life’s
enchanted circle and planting both feet on solid ground, Agnon
refuses to divest his world of the divine grace and sublime beauty
which envelop it like a hallowed prayer-shawl. Agnon’s writings
are always absorbed in an other-worldly atmosphere which
Bluma, in
Sippur Pashut ,
saw hovering around the picture of her
dead father. His symbolism is characterized by a religious exalta-
tion which, for the most part, gives an impression not of the kind
of folk-Hassidic fervor we meet in Peretz, but rather of a uni-
versal-human and intellectual-religious ecstasy. The only com-
parable analogy to it in Hassidism is found in Habadic rapture
which, derived as it is from Habad Hassidism, does indeed bear
a close affinity with the spirit of Agnon. Quoting his own words,
“This is the secret of the greatness and might, of the exaltation
and human love felt by every man of Israel.” This, too, is the
secret of the greatness and might, etc., woven into his own myth.
Agnon’s consummate skill in transforming reality into legend,
in irradiating the inner sheen of Jewish existence until it blazes
forth and fills the whole world with its glory, is revealed at its
truest and greatest in his story
Bi lvav Yamim
(In the Heart of
the Seas). Accordingly, this story should best lend itself to a
discussion of several aspects of Agnon’s art, particularly its
mythical elements. In addition to the perfect form and content
which characterize this prose work, the sheer perfection and
harmony of its entire artistic design produce an overpowering
impact upon the reader. For one thing, the roots of the design
may be traced back to the original vision of an ancient poet who
created the epic form. Furthermore, the story does not read like
an exegetical interpretation, nor like the grafting of an added
dimension upon life. Such is life—naive, profound and beauti-
ful. Even the humor which occasionally intervenes between the
seer and his vision, is spun into the web of the writing, until
it appears not like a story being told by a narrator smiling now
and then, but rather like a tale narrating itself with a smile, even
smiling amid tears. And is all this not for an excellent reason?