Page 127 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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TARNOR / AHARON A. KABAK
121
the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature is to be
commended for commissioning Julian L. Meltzer’s readable
translation.3 It is regrettable, however, that the translated volume
is only the first part of the trilogy by Kabak about one Diogo
(Diego) Pires who eventually became a “born again” Jew named
Shelomo Molho.
What we have is a partial translation of one of the first historical
novels to appear in modern Hebrew literature. The emphasis is
on the word “modern.” There were Hebrew novels before this
but they may not generally be regarded as modern. We use the
term “historical novels” in the sense that Sir Walter Scott did in
the composition of his Waverly novels. He is the best known of a
long line of writers in this genre.
The novelist writing in this vein needs a sound historical sense.
In addition, as Edward Wagenknecht pointed out with regard to
Scott, he must see “men as products of the forces that impinge
upon them out of the past.” He must be able to reach “back to tap
springs of racial memory.”4 Finally, as Caroline Gordon insisted,
the traditional hero is committed to and in the perpetual struggle
between good and evil.5 Kabak’s hero Shelomo Molho is all this
and more.
TROUBLED HERO
Diogo Pires-Solomon Molho was one of many hyphenated Jews
born into a hostile Catholic world in 1500, eight years after the
Spanish Expulsion. Given a sound classical-Catholic education in
a monastery, he early gained entrance to royal corridors of power
in Portugal and at the same time was secretly inducted into the
underground traditional Jewish faith of the
conversos.
The foun­
dation was laid in this sensitive soul for a constant tug-of-war
between two religious traditions. The agony of to what and to
whom he owed spiritual allegiance; the ecstasy of a clandestine
liaison, physical and spiritual, with Princess Giulia (Julia), sister to
the king, would have been enough to consume lesser heroic
3 Aharon A. Kabak,
Shelomo Molho,
trans. Julian L. Meltzer (Tel Aviv: Massada
and Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature, 1973).
4 Edward Wagenknecht,
Cavalcade of the Novel
(New York: Henry Holt & Co.,
1943; rpt. 1949), p. 165.
5 Caroline Gordon,
How toRead a Novel
(New York: Viking Press, 1966), pp. 173,
178.