Page 42 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
(1886-1969) who is almost obsessed with the love-theme has
lavished tend e r affection on the Arab woman in love. In his sho rt
novel
In Darkness Striving
he succeeded in in te rp re t ing the inne r
life o f a beautiful Moslem divorcee by the name o f Shafikah.
When h e r lover, a Jewish pedd ler by the name o f Rahmu, is
to r tu red and blinded by h e r relatives, she commits suicide by
drowning.
T he unusua l and even bizarre plot characterizes Bu rla’s stories
and novels. Time and again he presents ex trao rd inary combina­
tions o f hum an circumstance. Melodramatic quality dom inates
his men and women, fatalism dom inates the ir lives.
From the inception o f his literary career Burla in te rspersed his
stories and novels with Arabic words and phrases and aphorisms.
When he m a tured , he experim en ted with Arabic genres. In the
story “H igh Generosity” he used the
maqama
with the skill o f a
medieval Arab story-teller. No Jews are m en tioned in the story,
no Jewish protagonist plays any role. T he theme is a sort o f rivalry
in generosity between two she ikhs— an Arab theme with an Arab
ending: gifts o f one sheikh to the two sons o f the o the r and — to
cap it all — the supreme gift o f two young and beautiful girls for
life. Such generosity may strike the Western read e r as a strange
custom. But it has its roots in Semitic hospitality and respect fo r
the stranger.
In the work o f S. Yizhar (1916-
) and A.B. Yehoshua
(1936-
) the po r tra itu re o f the Arab assumes a new d im en ­
sion: it emerges as humanization o f the Arab. This is especially
true o f Yizhar’s bulky novel on the War o f Independence — one
o f the bulkiest novels p roduced in Israel in this century. It deals
with a tiny segment o f the war in a nondescrip t co rne r o f the
Jud aean desert. In its title
Days o f Ziklag
the au tho r wished to
establish a connection with the Philistine city o f Ziklag which was
in David’s possession in the early days o f the Ju d a ean monarchy
and which played a crucial role in his rise to royal power.
— Don’t you rem em ber what happened in Ziklag? Don’t
you remember the wars o f King David? Don’t you th ink
tha t it is good to know tha t Jews are fighting again in
David’s Ziklag?
— A living glory, ain’t it?
Soldierly talk, serious and satirical; mostly non-talk, associational
gibberish o f teenagers in in terio r monologs. But the historic
consciousness is there.