Page 118 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
justifications for his modes of creation. And they account for the
redemptive theme, the historicism, the blurred boundaries be­
tween legend and reality, the preference of the unusual to the
usual protagonist and, above all, the glorification of Jewry as an
essential, even dominant ingredient of humanity.
FICTIONAL THEMES
In his very first short story “In Golden Chains” Sackler attempt­
ed that peculiar mixture of fiction and drama which was to
become the signature of his style. In an autobiographical sketch
he summarized the story as a complaint and a protest against the
unjust order of the world. But he need not have derided his
subtitle: a monolog of a lunatic. For there was a central tendency
which appeared with unabated obstinacy throughout his fictive
work — in the novel
Festival at Meron
which stressed Jewish right
as represented by the rebellious Simeon ben Yohai against
Roman might as represented by the governor of Judea Tinneius
Rufus. In the words of the protagonist of the novel: “Power —
that is Rome and we [the Jews] cannot compete with Rome. So we
intend to outlive Rome.” In this crisp, epigrammatic sentence
Sackler contrived — through his spokesman of the second cen­
tury — to state the axiom of his faith: right outlives might. In the
beautiful story about Rashi, the superb commentator of the Bible
and the Talmud, Sackler again confronted gentile might and
Jewish right. Almost a thousand years passed between the period
of Roman oppression and the period of cruel adventurism in the
first crusade. The new authority of the sword as represented by
Godfrey de Bouillon confronts the age-old authority of trans­
formative learning and spiritual prowess as represented by Rashi.
The legendary encounter between the French count and the
Jewish sage elicits an eternal truth in Sackler’s story which ap­
peared under the title “A Caravan of Knights Passes Through
Troyes.”
Another Hebrew writer, Yohanan Twersky (1900-1967), was
also addicted to historical personages in his fictive work. And he
also wrote on Rashi. But a comparison of the authors would be
unjust to both of them. Sackler conjured up his characters with
precise historicism and with weighty, slow-moving sentence struc­
tures; Twersky, less rational and perhaps more pedantic than