Page 66 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JACOB KABAKOFF
Simon Halkin—Man of Letters:
On the Occasion of His 75th Birthday
I
t
w a s t h e p e r c e p t i v e
Hebrew literary critic and author Yaakov
Rabinowitz who early drew attention to the spirit of Habad
Hasidism which underlies Simon Halkin’s literary work. Hal-
kin’s questing after life’s ultimate truths and his deep-felt emo-
tion tinged with intellectualism, derive from that tradition which
he absorbed in his birthplace in White Russia. In the course of
his versatile career as poet, novelist, short story writer, trans-
lator and literary critic, he incorporated in his work influences
from Anglo-American literature and from the European intel-
lectual heritage that gave added dimensions to his writing.
Born in 1899, Halkin came to these shores at the age of fifteen
and received his secondary and higher education here. Beginning
with the 1920’s he achieved renown as a leading American He-
brew writer. During the 1930’s he was drawn to Palestine where
he continued his literary work and taught for several years. He
occupied academic positions in America during 1940-49, finally
taking up permanent residence in Jerusalem, where he served as
professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University until
his retirement. Among those who studied with him are a num-
ber of the leading younger Israeli writers and teachers of litera-
ture who view him as their mentor. I t is no accident that faculty
members of both the Hebrew University and the Tel-Aviv Uni-
versity are planning to issue volumes in his honor.
An outstanding representative of the post-Bialik period in He-
brew literature, Halkin made his mark principally as a poet.
Indeed, his poetic qualities inform his prose writing as well. His
first major collection of poems,
AI Ha-Ee
(On the Isle, 1946),
presented the harvest of more than a quarter-century of con-
templative writing. In meaningful verses Halkin engages in meta-
physical speculation about life and death, quests for God and
grapples with pain and isolation. In addition to such central
themes as love and nature, the volume offers also a sensitive re-