Page 42 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

Basic HTML Version

36
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
an en de a r in g im age o f the trad itiona l woman. So do e s the
grandm o ther in Aharon A pp e lfe ld ’s “As An A pp le o f His Eye .”
A ppe lfe ld ’s novelette, “T h e Age o f W onders,” p resen ts us with a
more elaborate portrayal. It depicts a Jew ish family in Austr ia
before World War II that is compelled to live und er increasingly
circumscribed conditions. T h e young p ro tagon ist o f the book
struggles with the assim ilationist views o f his Jew ish , self-hating
father. In the p re-Holocau st situation, in which a ffirm a tion or
denial o f one ’s identity is almost the only choice left in a world
where action is closed to Jew s , the fa th er chooses to deny his
origins. Th e mother, on the other hand , comes through as a
minor hero, a traditional type o f woman a ff irm in g se lf through
good works.
In addition to the traditional image o f woman as the s trong , but
self-effacing , nu rtu r ing mother and compan ion to hu sband ,
women are depicted in two other important ways in con tem po­
rary Israeli literature . We have seen Am ichai’s vision o f woman as
an object o f love, an alternative to and re fu ge from war. In the
work o f Y itzhak B en -N e r and Y itzh ak O rp a z women a re
polarized into their prim ord ial roles by the machismo a tm o ­
sphere o f the Army and physical labor. But, perh ap s , the most
interesting pattern we witness is the portrayal o f the Israeli
woman as the “ fee ling center,” the sensual-emotional unders ide
o f the society coun tering the male Establishment. V erg in g on
m adness, these women are ultimately extensions o f the writer,
challenging first the original ideologists and then the hard ,
pragmatic bu ilders o f the Jew ish State. As with the f igu re o f the
Arab in Hebrew literature , women are sometimes u sed as the
alienated character whose very being oppo ses the accepted views.
We see this in vivid form in the writings o f Amos Oz where
women are often seething, sensual, almost demonic creatures
represen ting an und erg roun d o f passion , violence and de stru c­
tiveness. Th is im age is presen ted with heavy-handed allegory in
Amos Oz’ early story, “A Hollow Stone .” In what might be p e r ­
ceived as a parab le on Zionism and the building o f Israe l, Oz
depicts Batya Pinski, a half-mad widow sequestered in her kibbutz
room , as the su pp re ssed side o f Israeli life. Batya ’s hu sband
Abrasha , who had gone o f f years ago to die for Socialism in the
Span ish Civil War, was driven by the passion o f which the kibbutz
was made — the passion for an ideal, while Batya was con sum ed
with sensual passion that was never fulfilled. Felix, a lesser light