Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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SlLBERSCHLAG — JOSEPH KLAUSNER
41
achieved for Hebrew literature: he communicated his intellectual
enthusiasm to thousands of people and created a larger acces­
sibility to literary figures. If Brandes brought Ibsen and Nietzsche
to the attention of his contemporaries, Klausner inured his critical
public to the considerable talents of Bialik and Tschernichowsky.
Scholarship did not convert Klausner into a sedentary recluse.
As a young man of twenty-three, he participated in the First
Zionist Congress in Basle. As a friend of Ussishkin and Jabotinsky,
he played the role of intellectual mentor to the political leaders
of Zionism. Although his was a spiritual brand of Jewish na­
tionalism in the beginning of the century, he showed remarkable
enthusiasm for the extreme objectives of Revisionism after the
First World War and supported them with his scholarly prestige.
And after the establishment of the Jewish state, he was a can­
didate for the presidency of Israel.
Statesmen and scholars, artists and writers flocked to his study.
Over the door of his home in the
Talpiyot
section of modern
Jerusalem, two words were engraved at his bidding:
Yahadut
we-Enoshiyut
(Judaism and Humanity). This is also the title
of one of Klausner’s early books. From the period of Enlighten­
ment he inherited this crude polarity and worked it to an
agonizing balance. Unlike his great predecessors in the nine­
teenth century, he sought to fuse the two seemingly disparate
modes of being.
This gentle savant brooked no compromise in his obstinate
devotion to the Hebrew language. His first scholarly work,
Sefat
Eber-Safah Hayyah
(Hebrew—A Living Language), which was
published in 1896 and republished in 1949 under a slightly
different title, is an act of faith in the vitality of Hebrew. To
that language he entrusted all his researches, all his writings, all
his love. Such dedication which may be taken for granted in this
mid-century, postulated courage at the end of the nineteenth
and even in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Klausner’s autobiography,
My Way to Revival and R edem p ­
tion,
is eloquent attestation of that courage. It is also an inti­
mate record and a valuable source of contemporary history.
The circumstances under which he planned and wrote his works,
the pleasant and unpleasant details connected with their publica­
tion and translation, the exemplary attachment to his wife and
the anecdotes about contemporary writers and scholars lend the
book an aura of excitement. The justifiable pride of the man
in his achievements, which borders on self-glorification, does
not detract from the value of his autobiography; it merely
emphasizes the essential simplicity of his character. In a letter
to the author (April 2, 1948) he boasts: “My heart tells me
that just this book will live longer in literature and research
than my other books; it contains an abundance of historical
material.”