Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
w rought sensitivity, his emotionality with rega rd to Jewish his­
tory. His feelings, gestures, and overflowing though ts contrast
and clash unrem ittingly with the g roup ’s apa thy and
unwillingness to listen to o r to unders tand him. T h e council
members’ indifference and hostility reflect a total lack o f interest
in history and its dynamics. Yudke is maximally involved, even
agitated; they are minimally, if at all, concerned. His views on
exile, suffering , martyrdom , and the spu rn ing o f redemptive
beliefs, the break in Jewish history between the Diaspora and the
idea o f the Jewish State — all these notions leave them cold.
Yudke’s historical in terpre tations meet only with the cha irm an’s
cutting remark: “Have you finished?” And finally, by leaving the
“main th ing” unexpressed, Yudke — and Hazaz — leave the
reader in a pu rposefu l state o f interpre tive limbo. But the ludi­
crous closing rem a rk o f the cha irman shows the way: T he reader
realizes tha t the remark cannot be taken seriously, tha t the “main
th ing” must already have been expressed in the story, in its d ra ­
matic action o f confrontation , in the expression, agitated and
fru s tra ted as it may be, o f Yudke’s ideas, in the indifference
toward them evinced by the council members.
My in te rp re ta tion o f “ha-Derasha” is that it embodies Hazaz’s
first literary response to the Holocaust. T ha t is how I understand
the ideas o f a historical “break” and “ano ther peop le” and the
“new beg inn ing” Yudke so agonizingly expresses. Aside from the
analysis o f the story itself— and in the face o f such obvious ambi­
guity one is often forced to look outside the individual work — I
base my in terp re ta tion on th ree factors: (1) the development in
Hazaz’s oeuvres o f the story o f ideas, from “H a ra t olam” to
“ha-Derasha,” most o f which have the rise o f Nazism as the ir main
subject;12 (2) the
Sitz im Leben
o f “ha-Derasha,” w ritten in late
1942, af te r word o f the Final Solution and the ho rro rs o f its
implementation had reached Palestine;13and (3) the ongoing tra ­
dition in Hazaz’s short stories, especially from “Rahamim
ha-sabal” to “ha-Derasha,” o f the one-scene story o f dramatic con­
fron ta tion . In both a chronological and textual analysis o f these
stories, the perception tha t proves most convincing is th a t Hazaz’s
fictive realism is the primary key to an in te rp re ta tion o f the his­
torical and philosophical myths expressed by his characters.
12 See
Ideas in Fiction,
pp. 68-79, 86-88.
13 A microfilm perusal o f
ha-Arets
and
Davar
show that the news o f the Nazi
slaughter o f European Jewry gradually found its way into the daily press in the
summer and autumn of 1942.