Page 83 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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and serve to externalize the dram a within his soul. A passive,
egocentric but ra th e r sympathetic protagonist, Herbst has many
opposing selves. A lthough somewhat withdrawn, he still minds
whatever is happen ing around him. I f Shirah symbolizes his
desire to break away, Henrie tta stands for his ties with family and
society. His intellectual pursuits, too, tear him apart: As a scholar
he is absorbed in studying the burial customs o f the poor in
Byzantium; bu t his artistic urge moves him to write a tragedy. He
succeeds ne ither in completing his study nor in writing the
tragedy. He is a good Zionist and an honest man, but a totally
secular Jew. So, too, are Shirah and Henrietta. Herbst seems
drawn also to Taglicht and Lizbeth Neu who are traditional Jews.
The novel contains a great deal o f criticism o f society in general.
Hypocrisy, and moral decline are condemned. The academic
world with all its pettiness and prestige seeking, is exposed with
sharp irony. But as is usually the case with Agnon, the sociological
aspect is but the crust o f the novel. T he book is concerned mainly
with the existence o f man, both as an individual and as a member
o f the community. Like many o f Agnon’s protagonists, Herbst is
driven to reject the world on one hand , and to accept it on the
other. In a previous story,
Ad Olam
(Forevermore), Agnon has his
main characters retire to a leper colony. He rejected such an
ending for Herbst and Shirah. He re tu rns Herbst to Henrietta,
thus advocating the acceptance of the world. This view o f Agnon
regarding the importance o f community is already inhe ren t in
such earlier works o f his as
Sippur Pashut
(A Simple Tale). One of
Agnon’s chief concerns is seeing the person as a link in the family
chain, and this is perhaps one o f the reasons that even m inor
characters in the novel bear the distinction o f a long family-tree.
Aesthetically speaking, there are many obvious flaws in this
novel: Repetitions; interpolations by the author; and some loose
writing. But oddly enough , it is aesthetically that the novel
achieves the most. In no o ther work has Agnon perfected such
vivid dialogue and such plasticity o f character. This, no doubt,
contributes largely to its readability.
eA d Henah
(Until Now) and
Oreah Nata Lalun
(A Guest for
the Night), this short novel, too, draws upon Agnon’s experiences
in Germany du r ing World War I. T he story takes places in Leip­