Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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18
JEW IS H BOOK ANNUAL
testimony to the fluctuations of his spirit. He veers between
optimism and pessimism, between certitude and doubt. In the
face of a holocaust-ridden world he continued his search for
harmony and sought reconciliation with life’s verities. In diffi­
cult moments he found strength in the simple of the earth, the
humble tasks and the realities of the soil. He desperately sought
to affirm the goodness of life. In one of his later poems he de­
scribed his road in life as one in which "the affirmation grows
out of negation.” While given to doubt and skepticism, he was
saved from cynicism and nihilism by his basic attachment to
the sources of Jewish hope and inspiration.
Shlonsky came on the scene of Hebrew literature as a rebel
who rejected the staid Bialik tradition and forsook national
elements for aesthetic values. From the outset, he adopted the
Sephardic pronunciation and added a new musicality to Hebrew
verse. Yet with all his advocacy of modernism and innovation,
his work did not mark a complete break with the past. His
style, highly responsive to colloquial language and to new
patterns and techniques, with their broken lines and bizarre
assonances, soon was absorbed into the mainstream of Hebrew
poetry. In later life he revised his stand against Bialik and
tempered his polemical views about the function of literature.
Similarly, he modified the attitudes which had made him the
leader of the secular intellectual circles of the left Socialist
groups in Israel. Beginning with the 50s he also became more
critical of Soviet Russia and its policies which he had supported
as part of his anti-Fascist stand.
Shlonsky’s collected works in ten volumes, issued on his
70th anniversary, are in a sense a literary biography of his
era. His later work is more restrained and more sparing in
expressionistic outbursts. Old age brought with i t reflection
and contemplation. In the concluding section of his
Mi-Shire
Ha-Prozdor Ha-Arukh
(From Songs of the Long Co rrido r) ,
originally published in 1968, he is concerned with the approach
of death and speaks of life as a movement down a long passage
of darkness. The passage contains many doors to the unknown
and the poet intimates tha t there is more than an element of
the mystical in his quest. There is a yearning here for the
niggun,
the melody which lives in poetry and which was so
assiduously fostered by Hasidism. Habad Hasidism, one of the