Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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rooted protagonist as ensnared between his individual desires for
self-realization and the demands imposed on him by society. Ex­
amples abound in the works o f M. Y. Berditchevsky, I. D.
Berkowitz, S. YAgnon, and others. While Berditchevsky’s heroes
constantly endeavor to assert their individuality by trying to es­
cape the Jewish ghetto, Agnon’s protagonists are mostly lonely
persons in search of a way back “to Father’s House.” In the stories
o f Berkowitz the p ro tagon ist is described more “from the
outside,” as the critic Dan Miron has put it, with special stress on
his social and economic condition. It was Berkowitz who unwit­
tingly crowned the uprooted protagonist with the epithet:
The word is used often in the Talmud regarding fruit that was
removed from the tree, and its general meaning in Hebrew is
“uprooted .” One o f Berkowitz’s stories entitled “Talush” tells
about a certain Dr. Winik, who becomes uprooted from his Jew­
ish world after he moves up the social ladder. Y. H. B renner and
U. N. Gnessin, on the other hand, emphasized the protagonist’s
alienation from an existential standpoint, presenting him as a
single isolated atom in the entire universe.
A look at Israeli fiction since Israel’s independence reveals that
the uprooted person’s position as chief protagonist has been
largely maintained. There is, however, one major distinction be­
tween the “Enlightened”Talush and the “Zionist”Talush: the lat­
ter is totally secular and has no traditional Jewish background.
Commenting on S. Yizhar — the leading au thor of the Palmach
generation — Eliezer Schweid mourns the “pain o f the cut-off
roots” and says that both Yizhar the au thor and the characters in
his fiction “cannot remember what they are missing because they
do not know it at all.” Yizhar is mostly interested in the tensions
between the individual and society from the ideological and
moral point o f view and his protagonist remains anonymous as if
immersed in the collective.
With the advent of the “New Wave” o f writers, among whom
Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua are the best known, emphasis shifts
again to the single solitary individual whose uprootedness is re­
garded basically as a universal human predicament; the “Israeli
condition” is employed mainly as a symbol. Chiefly concerned
with pathological psychology, these writers choose their protago­
nists from the margins of society. This applies also to the protago­
nists of their latest novels — Oz’s
Menuhah Nekhonah
(A Perfect
Peace, 1982), and Yehoshua’s
Gerushim Meuharim
(Late Divorce,