Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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not so much for its artistic form as for its critical evaluation of
subject matter, was
Young Hear ts
(N.Y., Schocken Books, 1950)
by David Maletz, translated by Solomon N. Richards.
As is evident from this survey, a good deal remains to be done
before the Israeli novel will be adequately presented to the
English reader. Until there are made available the writings of
such veteran novelists as Yehuda Burla, Asher Barash and
Yehoshua Bar-Yosef, among others, as well as those of some of
the younger writers like Nathan Shaham, Aaron Meged and S.
Yizhar, the picture will necessarily be incomplete. Of the writings
by Meged there is now available his
Hedvah And I
(Jerusalem,
Youth and Hechalutz Department, 1957), a dramatization by
the author of his novel by the same name dealing in humorous
fashion with the adjustment of a kibbutz member to life in the
“big city.”
Moshe Shamir’s K ing of Flesh and Blood
It is good to be able to report on the recent publication in
English of the outstanding popular novel by Moshe Shamir,
The King of Flesh and Blood
(London, East and West Library,
1958), expertly translated by David Patterson, lecturer in post-
biblical Hebrew at the University of Oxford. Shamir’s novel
won the highest literary award in Israel, the Bialik Prize, and
has gone into several editions. It represents a veering away
from the usual novelistic material drawn by the younger writers
from kibbutz life or war experiences, and bespeaks a serious
attempt to interpret the Jewish past.
Shamir, a native Israeli, has not given us a romantic historical
tale but one infused with sharp realism. In dealing with the
life and times of the power-thirsty King Alexander Jannai (103-76
B.C.E.), he has painted a wide and colorful canvas. Vivid descrip-
tions of the land, bloody war scenes, an analysis of the “geo-
politics” of the time, a re-enactment of the Yom Kippur Temple
ritual, an interpretation of the issues that were at stake in the
struggle between the Pharisees and Sadducees—all this and much
more is masterfully encompassed here. And towering over all
stands the tragic figure of Alexander Jannai, with whom the
greatness of the Hasmonean dynasty came to an end. His rela-
tions with his wife, Queen Salome, and his constant conniving
to gain power, are delineated with understanding and keen
psychological insight.
Shamir’s work, which appeared in Hebrew in 1954, represents
the most vital full-length novel of the post-war generation in
Israel, and marks a turning point in Israeli letters. In the words
of the translator, it “may fairly claim to be the most significant
historical novel in modern Hebrew literature.” Despite ten-
dencious elements which have crept in here and there, the novel
bodes well for the future of Israeli writing. Some of Shamir’s
work has also appeared in the
Israel Argosy
and in anthologies.