Page 128 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUA
figures and bring about the downfall of a lesser endowed bu
equally ambitious chronicler. Pires and his creator Kabak, how
ever, were made of tougher intellectual fibre. Kabak’s prodigiou
talents prevented the work from disintegrating into maudli
melodrama. In Werner Weinberg’s words, Kabak freed the He
brew novel “of stereotyped heroes, settings and themes, giving i
modern characters, plot, dialogue, and a sense of progression.
He was “One of the first Hebrew novelists to use the wide canva
approach . . ,”6 Pioneering achievements such as these make fo
impeccable credentials.
Kabak deftly guides us through the strong inner and outer live
of Diogo Pires. Part One is set in 1523 when Pires is a stripling o
twenty-three. The second half of the book, Part Two, takes place
in 1525 when he is twenty-five, a time when Pires is at the peak o
his upward climb in the royal court, securely ensconced in his
royal beloved’s affection. Court politics, which he never relished,
have forced him into a corner: He must go to Rome to petition the
papacy for permission to introduce the Inquisition into Portugal.
If he goes, he will knowingly be the instrument of the downfall of
his people. Should he refuse, his devotion to the crown will be
called into question. That would in turn have several dangerous
implications for him. The dilemma is resolved when he decides to
leave Portugal forever. He must part suddenly, without warning
or explanation, from his royal love. Just as abruptly, he must
abandon the trappings of power and influence acquired at much
spiritual cost. Pires, now Shelomo Molho, sets forth as a humble
lew into the long night of exile on a spiritual search.
Thus ends the book entitled by Kabak with deliberate am­
biguity:
Love.
What becomes of Pires-Molho? What happens to
the secondary characters we feel have been inadequately drawn?
Only the reader familiar with the complete trilogy in Hebrew may
know that. The English reader is unable to appreciate the full
grand sweep of time and events painted on the “wide canvas”
referred to by Werner Weinberg.
MOLHO’S DEVELOPMENT
He cannot know of Molho’s later spiritual growth, his experi
ences with mysticism in the holy city of Safed, his contact with
6 Werner Weinberg, “Aharon A. K a b a k
EncyclopaediaJudaica
(Jerusalem: Keter
Pub. House, 1972), X: 486-7.