Page 40 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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foreign for the nativist writers to master. In contrast, the kibbutz
and the army afford the writers a more lim ited social framework
for their fiction, and as a result these two institutions enjoy a
primacy as a literary setting beyond their role in rea l life.
The kibbutz Yizhar described in 1938 was no longer the un ­
stable, struggling commune which the authors of the second
A liyah depicted with such loving sympathy. By then the sheer
struggle for survival against nature and against ingrained bur-
geois ways of thought had ceased to be a major problem. A
newer and subtler theme evolved which had an inner, psycho­
logical dimension. Idealism had given way to realism and to the
unconcern of the institutionalized kibbutz for the integrity of
the individuals who composed it. Yizhar concentrated upon the
introverted personality of Ephraim and the artistic significance
of his request that his comrades permit him to engage in a job
which would be personally more satisfying. His appeal grew out
o f the new stability of the k ib b u t z and was rejected by his com­
rades because of this very stability. “Once,” Ephraim recalls
whimsically, “we talked about something quite different; once
we wanted many things. W h a t ’s happened to all that?”
His decision to protest the surrender of his individuality,
which surrender did violence to the Gordonian theory of hag-
shamah atzmit, self-fulfillment, is pathetic not only because the
kibbutz was annoyed with Ephraim but because it pretended
that the rejection of his modest request was not at all a deviation
from its professed ideals. Ephraim argues: “I want what I am
entitled to as Ephraim and not what chance dishes up to me. . . .
Can’t we concentrate our effort on what rea lly oppresses me
insofar as I am Ephraim? Why can’t we choose for ourselves out
of what ‘turns up ’ the thing we rea lly love . . . and reject what
displeases us? A t any rate, we ought not to sing praises to fu ti lity
by dubbing it ‘wholesome modesty’ or ‘exemplary conduct’.”
This call for individualism w ithin a collective society, even
when that society has social purpose or meaning, remains to this
day a dominant theme in modern Israeli fiction. In the period
following the W a r of Liberation it took on an almost nihilistic
tone, which has its paralle l in the works of the “angry young
men” of European literature. In Yizhar’s Yeme Ziklag (“Days of
Ziklag”) , one of the latest and undoubtedly profoundest works of
the native school, the protest against the socialization of ideals
becomes a recurrent theme.
Technically speaking, Yizhar’s verbal precision, his delight
w ith his verbal virtuosity (which later gets him into structura l
difficulties), are typical of the nativist school and almost forgiv­
able. For the first time, after centuries of exile, Hebrew became
a living language and the noisome problem of dialogue which
plagued the European school of Hebrew literatu re down into