Page 135 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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PATTERSON / YOSEF HAYYIM BRENNER
1 2 5
bu t the evil might no t be utterly without remedy. T he iron had
en tered deeply into the people’s soul, bu t there might still be time
and a way to roo t it out.
KEY TO REBIRTH
National registration and individual responsibility constitute
the central pillars o f B renne r’s message. The national home alone
might offer a cure fo r Israel’s spiritual and physical
malaise.
But
what he found there held scant promise o f fulfillment. It was not
enough merely to transp lan t the characteristics o f the diaspora to
the soil of the homeland. A life grown rotten in dispersion became
no less rotten by simple transference to the holy land. Hence the
seething, uncomprom ising depiction. Only a conscious effort
amounting to no less than a revolution o f character could tip the
scales in favor o f regeneration.
Like A.D. Gordon, his fellow architect in the plan to rebuild the
national life on sound foundations, B renne r postulated the basic
principle o f labor. Physical toil alone could redeem the individual,
give him roots and a sense o f belonging, and squeeze the poison o f
diaspora life ou t o f the body politic. Manual work would remove
the sickness from the Jewish spirit, cleanse it o f its over-subtleties
and emasculating introspection. But no less importantly, each
individual was duty bound to scrutinize his conscience, and bow to
his sense o f moral responsibility regardless o f the cost. Let every
man come to an honest self-evaluation, and a clear unde rs tand ing
o f the nature o f his environment, so that he might recognize the
realities o f poverty as well as the uselessness o f complaint. But let
there at least be sympathy for the suffering and down trodden .
And above all, let no man tolerate injustice wherever it might
appear and in whatever form. These were the principles which
exerted so powerful an appeal. The appeal was all the more
compelling once B renne r had died a m arty r’s death.
B renne r’s novels are episodic and fragmented , a series o f pic­
tures that pin-point the significance o f individual circumstances.
His style is rugged , actual, almost colloquial, with the emphasis
placed on directness o f communication. But the structure o f his
stories is carefully planned and he understood the secret o f econ­
omy, an indication o f the measure o f his innate literary sense.
Moreover, his ability to create atmosphere is masterly, a quality