Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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SLOTNICK / GRADE S CENTRAL CONCERN
115
second, saintly teacher, Chaikl does not resign himself to such a
simple traditional life, of a pious merchant or even Torah scholar.
It is clear, at the end of the novel, that the youth’s rebelliousness
(present in his days at the Valkenik yeshiva as well as at the Musar
center in Nareva) has not been checked by either mentor, but has
grown to the extent that Chaikl is very close to turning completely
to the secular world. Like his namesake in the earlier, verse
narrative
Musemikes
, Chaikl stands in the midst of a storm of
oppositions, and internalizes them, rather than choosing one
extreme or coming to a compromise between the two. In this, his
longest novel, Grade uses the semi-autobiographical figure to
embody the living continuation of conflict, even when the original
clash between the two main figures has subsided. In his attempt to
end
The Yeshivah
on a note of harmony, Grade nevertheless sus­
tains the tru th of discord — a central focus in his writing from his
earliest works — in the figure with which he identifies his own
youthful self.
Conflict is at the center of Grade’s writing, from the internal
strife of a young poet who pits himself against the world and his
own failings, to the abstract, ideological clashes of opposing
worldviews represented by the juxtapositions of Reb David Zelver
and Reb Levi Hurvitz in
The Agunah,
and of Tsemakh Atlas and
Reb Avraham-Shaye in
The Yeshivah.
Even a prose work of
medium length like the short novel,
The Well,
the story of a simple
porter’s triumph in his altruistic attempt to work for the good of
the neighborhood, is informed and enlivened by the waxing and
waning of conflicts in all his encounters. It is a tribute to Grade’s
internal consistency that passages of reconciliation — like the
truce in
The Agunah
or the final submission of Tsemakh Atlas in
The Yeshivah
— are overshadowed by the central tensions, ever
unresolved, that are the dynamic essence of Grade’s best works.