Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
zig, in a wholesale housewares store where the protagonist spends
a Friday afternoon filling in for the absent owner. In add ition to
using first person narration , it resembles the stories o f
Sefer
Hamaasim
(The Book o f Deeds) in its symbolism, its dream like
quality, its deliberate mingling o f d iffe ren t places and d iffe ren t
times, and its jux taposition o f the living with the dead.
T he store is described in terms o f empty dishes; th e re are no
newspapers and the telephone is disconnected. While seated
there in isolation the n a r ra to r is tran spo r ted by his though ts and
reminiscences which help him pass the time. Since it is th rough
these thoughts and reminiscences tha t the story unfolds, th e re is
perhaps here an implication tha t a r t acts as some kind o f occupa­
tional therapy. T h e power o f a r t to fill a vacuum is exemplified by
the n arra to r as he reads lists o f empty dishes and fills them with
imaginary foods, o r tu rn s the pages o f the telephone book and
meditates over names and families. T he ultimate goal o f all his
mental activities is to envision his hometown in Galicia which was
wiped out in the war. In his endeavor to re tu rn to a lost town, the
n a r ra to r shuts himself ou t o f the world. For all his trying to
persuade the reade r tha t the situation was forced on him, tha t he
owed a favor to Mr. Lublin who arranged fo r his stay in Leipzig, it
is clear tha t he is sitting in the store by choice. Like H erbst he
seems to be to rn apart: On the one hand , he wishes to study the
T o rah and the writings o f the Rambam, while on the o th e r he
desires to continue his literary work. T h e opposing doubles, both
o f whom originate from his hometown and both o f whom he met
in Berlin, are Rabbi Yonathan for whose sake he actually came to
Leipzig, because he wished to study with him, and Mr. Lublin. I f
Rabbi Yonathan rep resen ts the n a r ra to r ’s Jewishness, then Mr.
Lublin projects his modernism and his artistic interests.
Thu s it is Mr. Lublin who takes him to see a play and who
provides the oppo rtun ity for writing this book. In view o f the
many similarities between Agnon and Mr. Lublin, the favor tha t
the au tho r claims he owes him is perhaps a favor he owes him self
as a writer. In trying to bring to life the lost town, the n a r ra to r ’s
memories range over a wide area. But reality has a way o f in t ru d ­
ing into the world o f make-believe, and the final visions are full o f
tombs. T he dead scholar o f his hometown, Yaakov S h tern (The
Star o f Jacob), appears but has no th ing to say. In a d ream the
na r ra to r sees his fa th e r who encourages him to study the Ram­
bam. T he n a r ra to r then realizes he has to re tu rn to the world