Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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PELLI / HASKALAH LITERATURE
95
manifesting a this-worldly a ttitude , a m undane orientation . As
developed by the
maskilim,
language was meant to serve as a
practical vehicle o f communication for unders tand ing the condi­
tion o f the Jewish individual against the background o f his Jewish
and non-Jewish society.
Haskalah litera tu re thus initiated a long process, which was
characterized by the continuous secularization o f the Hebrew
tongue and eventually led to ou r con temporary Hebrew letters.
T he use o f the familiar idiom, taken from the sacred corpus o f the
Hebrew heritage, in modern contexts, assumed at first the form
o f
melizah,
o r euphuism . This highly florid style, although artifi­
cial and inapp rop r ia te for everyday use, enabled the writer to
make a multidimentional use o f language. T he subtleties o f the
Hebrew language were thus developed, reflecting thereby the
very problem o f the dual Jewish existence in a modern , secular
world. T he artistry o f a writer in ou r cen tury like SJ . Agnon, who
employed Hebrew with such grea t sensitivity and subtlety, was in
the rich tradition o f such Haskalah writers as Saul Berlin, Joseph
Perl and Isaac Erter.
NEW LITERARY GENRES
In evaluating the literary merit o f Haskalah writers, one may be
somewhat disappointed in the achievements o f the early Hebrew
Enlightenment. While some o f the writers attem p ted to fo rm u ­
late the ‘poetics’ o f Haskalah, the ir actual contribution seems
meager indeed, even when viewed in the light o f the ir own asp ira­
tions. Nevertheless, the re was a constant search for new literary
genres and modes o f expression. From Eu ropean litera tu re the
Hebrew Haskalah borrowed certain styles. Satire was employed
by Isaac Euchel and Saul Berlin in spite o f Wessely’s strictures in
his
Nahal Ha-Besor.
T he epistolary genre was in troduced by such
writers as Euchel and Joseph Perl. T he drama , in various forms —
from poetic to biblical dram a — was experimen ted with. Even
esoteric forms o f literature , such as the Dialogue o f the Dead,
were emulated by Aaron Wolfssohn and o the r
maskilim
.4 T he
4 Euchel’s
Iggerot Meshulam
(Letters of Meshulam) and Perl’s
Megaleh Temirin
(Revealer of Secrets). See my article “The Beginning of the Epistolary Genre in