Page 133 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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PATTERSON / YOSEF HAYYIM BRENNER
Hebrew literature. But it is in
Breakdown and Bereavement
tha t
B renne r’s talent reached its height. A blend o f pene trating in­
sight, poignancy, honesty, compassion and artistry, the novel
constitutes a hum an document o f high order.
I f only everything weren’t so dry and bitter and hard: the
burning , sweat-sucking air, the filthy inn, the sickening,
poisonous food, the alien cold surroundings; it was impossi­
ble not to dream o f a comfortable place to live, a good meal,
shade, a cool stream, tangled woods, tree-lined streets . . .
but in any case, it wasn’t this tha t mattered most . . . on the
con tra ry : som e tim es he would de libera te ly resis t the
slightest improvement in his life, refuse to escape the desola­
tion, the apathy, the packed quarters , the filth, even for a
moment. No, what never failed to crush him was the u tte r
pointlessness o f it all: it seemed monstrous to him to have to
go on living like this, for no reason, as a Jewish “farm h and ”
always looking for work; monstrous when he found it to
have to go ou t every morning and compete with a ho rde of
strange Arabs; monstrous to have to fight all day long with
the ill-mannered foreman; and then to re tu rn to the inn at
evening and gulp down a sour, gassy gruel that boded ill for
the stomach; and afterward to d rop by the workers’ club to
yawn once or twice and read an old newspaper; and then
back to the inn again, to a bachelor’s sleep bitten into by all
kinds o f bugs; and once more to rise with the ringing o f the
clock and work all day long until evening. And the work had
no meaning, and the end was far, unclear, invisible, non ­
existent . . . to go a year like that, two years, ten years,
forever . . . and never any change; no relief, no progress, no
hope.3
LITERARY CREDO
In B renner the writer and the teacher were inextricably united.
He regarded litera tu re as a social instrum en t — essentially p u r ­
posive, and with an incisive and immediate impact. In spite o f his
early death, his ou tpu t was formidable. Nine volumes o f his
writings — by no means all inclusive — toge ther with two volumes
3
Breakdown and Bereavement,
p. 12 f.