Page 120 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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B u t a t m ost you a re only tied to y o u r p a n ts .” W h ich in th is case,
o n e may ad d , is qu i te a tall s ta tem en t.
CO SM IC U P RO O T ED N E S S
T h o u g h in Ya’akov S h ab ta i’s works th e sp ir i tu a l ex ile o f th e
u p r o o t e d in d iv id u a l is d e p ic te d p r im a r i ly as a n e x is te n t ia l
p red ic am en t , it is also shown to re su l t f rom d is illu s ionm en t with a
specific ideo logy o r d ream . T h is is a lready ev id en t in his f irs t col­
lec tion o f s to ries
H a -D od Pere tz M am r i
(Unc le P e re tz T ak e s O ff ,
1972), in which th e n a r r a to r looks back to th e tim e o f his ch ild ­
hood in his p a re n t s ’ hom e in Tel-Aviv. S h ab ta i’s p reo c c u p a t io n
with d e a th , th e family, an d th e u p ro o te d ind iv idua l who c an n o t
com e to te rm s with w ha tever life in the L and o f Israe l has to o f fe r
him , was qu i te a p p a r e n t a lready a t this early stage. T h e r e is a
s tro n g d icho tom y be tw een the v isionaries who a re th e u p ro o te d
peop le , an d th e con fo rm is ts , the bou rgeo is . While th e fo rm e r a re
em bod ied in ch a rac te rs such as unc le Pere tz , unc le P innek , an d
unc le Shm ue l, th e i r oppo s ite n um b e rs a re ep itom ized by th e im ­
age o f unc le N(5ah who ho lds a steady jo b with T e n u v a h , an d
read s
D a v a r
(the p a p e r o f th e lead ing L abo r Party). T h e r e is no
room fo r d re am s in unc le N o a h ’s a rk o f e s tab lishm en t . “T h e
a u th o r ’s sym pa thy ,” th e critic G e rshon Shaked has rem a rk e d , “is
with th e rom an t ic ‘lu f tm en sch ,’ who follows in th e foo ts tep s o f
Shalom A le ichem ’s p ro ta g o n is t .” T h e r e is a soft tou ch o f no s ta l­
gia in Shab ta i’s h a n d l in g o f th e rebe llious , he lp less schlem iels in
th e stories. T h e un if ied world which is p re s e n te d as com p le te in
itself, su s ta in ed by its fa ith a n d sp ir itu a l values, is gone with th e
g r a n d p a r e n ts ’ d e p a r tu re . N e i th e r C omm un ism , unc le P e re tz ’
ideal, n o r th e rea liza tion o f th e vision o f th e L and o f Israe l, as
in fe r re d f rom th e lives o f unc les Shm ue l a n d P innek , a re success­
ful in fu lfilling th e void. U p ro o ted n e s s is conceived o f as a vacu ­
ous n o -m a n ’s land be tw een th e holy o r idea lized , a n d th e p r o ­
fane . I t is this sense o f em p tine ss th a t takes com p le te ly ove r la te r
in S h ab ta i’s novel, s end ing th e p ro tagon is ts in to o u t e r space in
sea rch o f o th e r galaxies, an d finally d r iv ing th em to th e i r d e a th .
T h e r e is a con s is ten t view o f d e a th as bo th th e only way o f reb e l ­
lion a n d th e u l tim a te so lu tion fo r th e u p ro o te d p ro tag o n is t . U n ­
cle P e re tz ’ su ic ide w hen he takes p f f b ird - like f rom a roo f , shou ld
be u n d e r s to o d in this sp irit. I t is an a sse r tion o f his f re e d om bo th
from th e “ro t te n w o r ld ” which he cou ld n o t ch ang e a n d f rom th e
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JEW ISH BOOK A NNUA L