Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
34
to see the unclean earth of exile, and merits ascension to the
Holy Land of Israel.
Many critics have remarked on the interesting parallelism
between
The Bridal Canopy
and
Don Quixote,
mainly by em-
phasizing the similarities between the chief characters who wan-
der about in a world of fantasy and dreams, accompanied by
another character who supposedly represents a realistic concep-
tion of the world. Cervantes has his Don Quixote and Sancho
Pancho, and Agnon his Reb Yudel and Nuta, the driver. Those
who have made this comparison, however, have evidently not
perceived the basic distinction between the two diametrically
different worlds in which essentially different characters act and
react. As Professor B. Kurzweil has pointed out, with Cervantes
the tragi-comic plot derives from the tension between a char-
acter acting and living as though the absolute values of knight-
hood and chivalry were still extant, and the reality of his own
time already void of these values. These values for which Don
Quixote so gallantly battles are the very essence of a reality which
did indeed exist two or three hundred years before Cervantes.
But their time is now past; they have lost their effect. This con-
flict, then, forms the spiritual background against which the
valorous deeds of the sad knight are projected. In this respect,
the critic Gyorgy Lukatsch correctly views
Don Quixote
as the
first modern romance which testifies to the isolation of the “I ”
in a world abandoned by God. I t is, therefore, vain to await
a miracle which will deliver the hero from his agonies. In
Don
Quixote
magic overshadows mercy and miracles and turns the
actions of the hero into a grotesque tragedy.
In Agnon’s
The Bridal Canopy
it is just the reverse—the miracle
still prevails. God’s mercy penetrates at the last crucial moment
to liberate the hero from his agonies. In a masterful sequence
of events Agnon molds in this epic the romantic illusion of a
world of wholeness and unity, which contains the miracle as
a possible and even necessary solution. This illusion is possible
because Agnon has so fashioned his character that Reb Yudel
Chosid does not appear out of place; on the contrary, he lives
naively in the world of his time. In this innocent world the
miracle and the compassion of God are still possible.
Comparison of Mendele and Agnon
Other critics have dwelt upon the similarity between
The
Bridal Canopy
and
The Travels of Benjamin the Third
by
Mendele. This, however, is a comparison which relies mainly
on external similarities of framework and plot. Mendele also
has two wandering heroes: one an idle daydreamer, Benjamin,