Page 126 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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NORMAN TARNOR
Aharon A. Kabak: The Heroic Quest
T
h e
m o d e r n
H
e b r e w
novel first appeared in the “New” Hebrew
Literature of the nineteenth century. David Patterson has assured
Abraham Mapu a permanent place on the English reader’s book­
shelf with his study
otThe Love of Zion
and a translation of part of
the text .1 Mapu’s romantic return to the “good old days” of the
distant Israelite monarchy, however, did little to promote the
qualities of modernity as we know them today. Written in Dickens­
ian style and overburdened with layers of
meliza
and biblicisms, it
was nevertheless good reading for many of Mapu’s contem­
poraries who had been educated in the yeshiva. Nothing in the
novelistic medium had appeared before, but “modern” hardly
seems applicable within such a framework.
The Love of Zion
was
simply the first of its kind.
On the other hand, a novel did appear in 1928/9 which has
retained the earmarks of a pioneering and innovative achieve­
ment, in which the signs of the modern are distinctly visible
despite the fact that it, too, was set in the “long, long ago” idiom. It
was a trilogy written by Aharon A. Kabak:
Shelomo Molho,
the
original edition of which has long been out of print.2We are led to
deal with it on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Kabak’s
birth (1883-1944).
One is tempted to react to the name of the central character of
this novel as the American public did several years ago to a
relatively unknown presidential candidate: “Shelomo — who?”
Historically speaking, Shelomo Molho was a sixteenth century
personality on the stage of Portuguese Jewish history, not neces­
sarily one of its better known figures. The
Encyclopaedia Judaica
allotted him two columns in its fourth volume, hardly enough to
justify Aharon A. Kabak’s devoting an entire trilogy to him. Still,
1 David Patterson,
Abraham Mapu: The Creator of the Modern Hebrew Novel
(Lon­
don: East
8c
West Library, 1964).
2 Aharon A. Kabak,
Shelomo Molho,
3 vols. (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1946). This
edition has also become scarce, a sad commentary on the fragile transience of
literary creations, however important they may be.