Page 71 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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YUDKIN / NEW ISRAELI NOVELISTS
61
uncluttered by foreign models. They could relate directly to the
land and language, and produce a new Hebrew literature re­
flecting this generation reared in Israel.
Perhaps the most typically Sabra prose writer of this genera­
tion was S. Yizhar (b. 1916), whose first story “Ephraim Hozer
la-Aspeset” (Ephraim Returns to the Lucerne, 1938) set the tone
for all his later work. Yizhar operates in two genres—the short
story and the long novel
(Yemei Ziklag,
Days of Ziklag, 1958),
but both are composed of interior monologues on the part of
the protagonists, mainly the hero, and a minimum of external
action. Such a plot as exists serves to enable the protagonist to
formulate his attitudes, and perhaps eventually reach a decision.
The substance of the interior monologue is doubt, and the
doubter is swayed by conformity with social norm on the one
hand and conscience on the other. Most of Yizhar’s stories were
written in the wake of the War of Independence. The moral sit­
uation revolves around the action of soldiers and the propriety
of certain courses of behavior in time of battle. But even in his
first story, this sort of approach is marked out. The central fig­
ure, a kibbutz member, wants to change the nature of his work,
but is subject to pressure on the part of other members to re­
main where he is. Ephraim oscillates from one opinion to an­
other, eventually adopting the line of least resistance and keeping
his original employment. Social pressures win out, and the in­
dividual conscience is left to protest ineffectually.
Much of Yizhar’s writing is devoted to landscape description.
The landscape for Yizhar is the world, capable of absorbing
the hero or alienating him. In
Ha-Shavui
(The Prisoner, 1948),
the Israeli soldiers, about to take an Arab prisoner, are seen as
the interlopers disturbing the scene: “It seemed clear that it was
impossible to penetrate further inside without arousing some
excitement, and that immediately removed the purpose of the
patrol.” The Arab prisoner, on the other hand, is an integral
part of that landscape. Like an indigenous animal, he belongs.
When taken “he descended from rock to rock between the shrubs
as a shepherd descends between the shrubs with the startled
sheep after him.” The weather, too, is hostile to the interlopers.
The sun “seemed to be a sort of high, dumb rebuke.” The nar­
rator, the “I ” of the story, wants to release the prisoner and
have nothing more of the affair. This presses his conscience.