Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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KABAKOFF / SIMON HALKIN— MAN OF LETTERS
Four of the ten stories are obviously chapters from Halkin’s
trilogy of American Jewish life. In two of these, he depicts the
relationships between Jews and non-Jews with a light ironic
touch. In one instance he has Fred McCormick, a non-Jew, un-
burden himself at length to Leizer Loskin and warn him about
his son’s radicalism. In another, “The Race Theory,” he dis-
sects Jewish university youth and describes their dim awareness
of racialism even within the liberal atmosphere of a college
whose student body is largely Jewish. These chapters whet the
appetite for the publication by Halkin of the two concluding
volumes of his trilogy in their entirety.
Halkin’s critical essays constitute a significant corpus of his
variegated literary productivity. While living in America, he
published a volume of literary studies entitled
A ra i va-Keva
(Transience and Permanence, New York, 1942), in which he
enunciated his literary credo. More recently, his literary essays
and studies were collected in Israel in three volumes under the
title
D erakh im ve -Z idde i D erakh im ba-Sifrut
(Ways and Byways
in Literature, Jerusalem, 1970). The volumes incorporate his
writings on both Hebrew and general literary themes, and his
studies of both Hebrew and non-Jewish literary personalities.
Although Halkin disclaims any role as a professional critic, his
essays go to the heart of the work of the various authors he treats.
Several of the studies explore in depth such themes as the new
Israeli poetry, religious motifs in modern Hebrew verse, and
history and historicism in modern Hebrew literature. Halkin’s
conception of modern Hebrew literature as a profound spiritual
record of the emergence of the Jew from the state of ghetto
Judaism was elaborated in his English volume
M od e rn H eb rew
L ite ra tu re : T ren d s and Values,
first published in 1950 and since
reissued in a new edition. I t has long been his view that modern
Hebrew literature is the most faithful mirror of the sociohistorical
forces which motivated and shaped Jewish life in modern times.
This conviction served Halkin as a guiding principle in his teach-
ing during the two decades that he occupied the chair of profes-
sor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
An indication of how he applied his meaningful approach to the
critical analysis of literary texts is to be had from his
M avo la-
S ip p o r e t ha -Ivrit
(Introduction to Hebrew Narrative Prose,