Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
Wo r ld Cen ter of H e b r ew Publ ishing
Israel is, of course, the world center of Hebrew publishing. It
is also the center of Jewish religious literature. Thus, new editions
of the Bible are constantly being issued, as are modern editions
of the Mishnah and contemporary works of Biblical exegesis.
There is also a new edition of the Babylonian Talmud in a
modern Hebrew translation.
Reference books are a sound touchstone of the public tastes in
book-buying. The projected Hebrew Encyclopedia, which to date
has issued 16 volumes, has about 70,000 subscribers. The Tal-
mudic Encyclopedia has so far published ten volumes, and the
Yezreel Encyclopedia has been completed and practically sold out.
A number of up-to-date Hebrew dictionaries, for technical and
all kinds of other purposes, are eagerly sold in the tens of thou-
sands. The most popular, perhaps, is the monumental five-volume
Even-Shoshan dictionary. English-Hebrew dictionaries, such as
the Alkalai dictionary and the Scharfstein-Sapan dictionary, also
enjoy wide sales.
Reuben Alkalai’s new dictionary contains 140,000 words and
expressions, “more than any other Hebrew dictionary.” With the
Hebrew language developing at its present pace, the problem
was when to call a stop. Up to the very last moment, Alkalai
notes, he added newly coined words. He began eight years ago,
worked on it over ten hours a day, and liked doing it so much
that “I was prepared to continue endlessly,” he declared as he
was preparing the first supplement to his magnum opus.
Alkalai estimates that there are now about 100,000 words in the
Hebrew language; fewer, of course, than the rich English Ian-
guage—some say it has about 600,000 words—but quite a number
when compared with many other modern languages. He reckons
that a few thousand terms are added every year, mainly, of course,
by the Hebrew Language Academy.
In the field of belles-lettres, the past years have brought few
surprises, though there were several new novels of importance,
and a few were of excellent quality. A fresh talent is Rachel
Eitan, whose novel
The Fifth Heaven
is based on the author’s
childhood experiences in a children’s institution during the years
of World War II. Mrs. Eitan, who is Israeli-born, has essayed an
ambitious attempt to paint a realistic canvas of the life and
society in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State. In
describing the experiences of her young maladjusted heroes, Mrs.
Eitan does not spare the truth, grim as'it may be. Her tale avoids
the sentimentality inherent in the subject; the situations in
which the children, their parents and teachers find themselves,
are presented in a straightforward manner, with no pretense to