Page 117 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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1982; English translation, 1983). There is a marked difference
between their earlier and their later works. The strain o f realism
in their recent novels, as well as their preoccupation with the un ­
easiness o f the Israeli concerning his homeland, bring them into
line with the dom inant trend of Israeli fiction in the last decade.
Already in the sixties the late critic Barukh Kurzweil discerned
in the “Canaanite” literary movement an impending danger to
Judaism because “it had taken Judaism out o f its eternal context
and pinned it down to the here and now.” The “Canaanites,” it
may be recalled, wanted to detach themselves from the chain of
Jewish existence in the Diaspora, and regarded the Jewish state as
a new beginning in Jewish history. It is therefore understandable
that to face up to the state’s shortcomings is particularly agoniz­
ing for any ex-Canaanite writer. Benjamin Tammuz is a case in
point. His novel
Requiem fo r Naaman
(1978; English translation,
1982) is in fact a requiem for Zionist dreams. Written as a family
chronicle, it covers four generations in the life o f the Abramson
family from 1895 through the Yom Kippur war. On the one
h and , th e re s tands the fa th e r o f the family — Eph ra im
Abramson, a successful citrus farmer, who is portrayed as strong
and practical, a personified “fulfillment of the promise which the
Zionist movement gave to the Jewish people.”On the other hand,
there is his fragile wife Bella-Yaffa who cannot acclimate to the
new country and is homesick and depressed to the point of
committing suicide. There exists a sharp dichotomy between the
members o f the younger generation, between the practical build­
ers and the uprooted dreamers. The alienated dream-chasers are
quick to vanish — Na’aman commits suicide and Eliakum gets
killed — leaving the world to those who are practical and materi­
alistic. It is Israel as the land of “merchants, speculators, money-
rakers” that Tammuz portrays as he mourns the dream for some
ideal society in an ideal land.
A family chronicle is also the theme o f Davis Shitz’ novel
Esev ve’Ha-Hol (The Grass and the Sand, 1978).
Published in the
same year as Tammuz’
Requiemfo r Naaman,
and essentially a very
different book, it too involves tracing a family tree with hopeless
results. Emmanuel, the narra tor o f Shitz’ novel, is the youngest
son of a half German, half Jewish family. Regarding himself as