Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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68
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
of extraneous detail. The Bible story relates a series of events
in their time sequence, with almost no attempt at psychological
analysis or philosophical speculation. It presents the bare bones,
and leaves it to the reader to supply the flesh and blood. But
the novel demands a very different technique. It has to supply
details of every sort and furnish those very elements which the
Bible story is so careful to omit. Yet Mapu had to use a medium
of expression whose chief power lies in such omission. And
finally, how could such usage fail to suffer by comparison with
the grandeur of the original?
Mapu solved the problems by attacking his material unre­
servedly. The Hebrew Bible in its entirety became grist for his
mill. He appropriated and refashioned, moulding the material
to suit his purpose yet retaining its original spirit. Even while
introducing entire phrases and complete images from the Bible,
he managed to merge them so smoothly with the texture of his
own style, that the result is not an imitation or a parody of the
Hebrew Bible, but rather a genuine and organic extension of
it. This most delicate linguistic sense is perhaps the most inter­
esting and attractive feature of the novel. It must be admitted
that dialogue, written in such a medium, is inevitable rather
stilted and artificial. But the criterion of criticism in this case
must be that he succeeded at all, that the dialogue was actually
written.
It is a long step from Mapu’s
Ahabat Ziyyon
to the living
language of contemporary Hebrew literature, yet this novel
helped to pave the way. For all its faults of construction and
naive characterizations, its significance lies in the new possibilities
of art and life which it revealed, in the human awareness it
promoted. For not only does it stand at the head of a great and
growing chain of Hebrew novels, but it represents the first
expression of a people’s longing for a fuller and finer life.