Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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E z r a S p i g e h a n d l e r
t is doubtful that any generation of writers was as eagerly
greeted by its predecessors as was the first generation of native
Hebrew speaking writers. The ir achievement was anxiously
awaited by the generation which, after long and arduous struggle,
had fashioned the Hebrew language into a modern idiom. It
was to be the final vindication of Zionist voluntarism, the proof-
text of the Hebrew revival.
More than a quarter century has passed since the first works
of the Sabra school began to appear. By now their authors have
fu lly “arrived.” They sit in the learned council of the Hebrew
W riters Society and publish in the staid pages of its literary
organ, Moznayim. In short, they no longer enjoy the immunity
the gentler critics extend to “young writers.” As a matter of fact,
a jun io r generation is already replacing them. The time has
therefore come to evaluate the contribution of these Sabra writers
to contemporary Hebrew letters.
That the younger native Hebrew w riter would diverge from
the patterns set by his European predecessors was, of course, an
obvious prognosis. It was, after all, a postulate of Zionist think-
ing that the “new Jew ,” the “free Jew ,” would reject much of
the European past and would seek out new and radical modes
° f expression. But hardly anyone could foresee the extent of
the break with the past, and no one expected that these “golden”
young men would question the very socialist-Zionist ideals which
were to have been made concrete by their new lives.
I f we reexamine the first impressive short story produced by
the native school, S. Yizhar’s Efraim Hozer La-Aspeset (“Eph-
raim Returns to A lfa lfa ,” published in Gilyonot, 1938), we can
discern some of the main motifs and techniques the new litera-
ture was destined to employ. The kibbutz, the setting of Yizhar’s
story, was shortly to become the standard setting for Sabra
fiction. Its only major riva l was to be the m ilitary setting of
either the Palmach or of the Israeli army. In a previous article
I suggested that the concentration on these two loci was dictated
by the amorphous and unfixed state of Israel’s social structure.
The city (to be more specific, the urban complex bunched
about Jaffa-Tel Aviv) which holds more than ha lf of Israel’s
population, is still too complicated, too dynamic and even too
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