Page 166 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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S. Yizhar: Writer on Native Ground
On the Occasion of His 70th Birthday
i z h a r
m i l a n s k y
(born 1916) is generally acknowledged to be
the first distinguished native Israeli writer. In style, tempera­
ment and intellectual conviction
S .
Yizhar (his pen name) holds a
respectable position in the field of Hebrew letters as a novelist,
critic and social commentator. Yizhar’s fiction as well as his essays
on Israeli domestic concerns have generated a good deal of con­
troversy; not all of his critics, however, were mindful of the dis­
tinction between fact, opinion and artistic imagination.1
Yizhar’s arrival on the literary scene with the novella
hozer la-aspeset
(Efraim goes back to the alfalfa) was hailed as a
most auspicious event; the writer, then twenty-two years of age,
drew critical praise for the degree of sensitivity and insight dis­
played in his portrayals of inner conflict and his exceptional ren­
dering of natural landscape.
The Smilanskys, who came to Palestine from the Ukraine du r­
ing the last decade of the previous century, settled in the south­
ern farming community of Rehovot. Some of them became polit­
ically active in the life of the Yishuv, while others contributed to
the development of its culture.2 The author’s childhood and
adolescence, depicted in the collection
Sippurei mishor
(Stories of
the plain, 1963), were imprinted with the landscape of a great sea
of citrus groves and vast, sandy plains where scattered Arab vil­
1 For a comprehensive bibliography and evaluation o f Yizhar’s work to 1971,
see Chayim Nagid, S.
Mivhar ma’amarim alyetsirato
(Tel-Aviv, 1972).
2 Moshe Smilansky, Yizhar’s great uncle, was one o f the major writers o f the
First Aliyah. He is known primarily for his romantic short stories about the
desert and its nomadic inhabitants. Meir Smilansky (Siko), another great
uncle, wrote o fJewish life in his beloved Ukraine. S. Yizhar’s father, Ze’ev, con­
tributed many articles and statistical studies on agronomy to professional jour­
nals in Palestine.