Page 72 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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But the weight of the other soldiers’ opinion does not allow
such an easy decision. The main part of the narration is taken
up with the interior arguments of the narrator. And it ends
indecisively; conscience loses, there is “shameful helplessness."
In other stories of Yizhar a key role is played by Nature, the
sounding board against which a character can hear and know
himself. In “Shayarah shel Hazot” (Midnight Convoy, 1950), only
one character of the story, Zviyaleh, can be properly absorbed
into his surroundings: “Of them all, only Zviyaleh was lying
stretched out, warming his belly on the softened clods, removing
himself from the conversation, from the stirring and from every­
thing, going out to himself, gliding pleasurably, escaping silently
into the world’s expanses being opened round about; the more
the sunset was being realized, the more he divested himself of
his foreignness and could become graspable and understood.”
Yizhar tries to describe the groping of his character to merge
with his environment, which he does by introducing a springy,
versatile (if somewhat heady and uncontrolled) Hebrew of wide
vocabulary, deploying winding sentences and unusual structures,
attempting to imitate the shape of the mind formulating its
subtle nuances.
Yizhar has written very little fiction in recent years, but the
material that has appeared in, for example,
Sippurei M ishor
(Stories of the Plain, 1964) conforms to the lines indicated. One
story, appropriately entitled “Sippur Shelo Hithil” (A Story Not
Begun) has no plot at all, being a series of angry reflections back
and forth. And another “Ha-Nimlat” (The Runaway) relates only
one piece of action: a horse escapes and is recaptured. The first-
person narrative voice is of a child who is deeply distressed by
the plight of the horse. The feeling of elation is conveyed by
the horse’s escape, as is the disappointment following its recap­
ture. This is the substance of Yizhar’s stories; the individual’s
aspiration to freedom while seeking integration with the world,
contrasted with his limited capacity and opposed by forces which
finally vanquish and suppress this spirit.
That Yizhar’s powerful fictional voice has been gradually si­
lenced is some indicator of the general mood of this literary gen­
eration. The Israeli world has changed so much that sometimes
nostalgia has to be invoked to recreate it. This was done by Haim
Guri (b. 1923) also of this group, who composed such an