Page 167 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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ROTSHTEIN / S. YIZHAR: WRITER ON NATIVE GROUND
1 5 5
lages invitingly beckoned. The villagers themselves were em­
ployed by Jewish families as agricultural and domestic hands.
Not infrequently, strong bonds and even personal relationships
were forged through such associations.
The scenery of the northern Negev which figures so promi­
nently in all of the twenty-two stories as well as in the only novel
by Yizhar, is more than a backdrop to these works. In time, as the
author’s social and political consciousness were refined and as his
disenchantment and vexation at the consequences of technology
and modernization grew, a trend emerged in Yizhar’s work to
“retreat” to the safety and pristine serenity of the plains and
orange groves. In terms of the chronology of the literary
compositions, those stories which, taken together, would consti­
tute Yizhar’s Bildungsroman,3belong to the last period of his bel-
letristic activity.
Quite fortuitously, the milestones of Yizhar’s literary develop­
ment have tended to occur at rather precise intervals. In 1938 the
literary journal
Gilyonot
published his first story. In 1948, one
decade and nine stories later, as the War of Independence was
still rag in g ,
H a -Sh a vu y
(T he C ap tive )4 was pub lish ed ,
precipitating an intense literary and political debate which con­
tinued to reverberate for many years.5That story was followed by
three more, thematically related to the war. In 1958 the long-
awaited novel by Yizhar, a two volume war epic called
Yemei
Ziklag
(The days of Ziklag) appears. It was to be Yizhar’s only
work in this genre. The controversy surrounding its publication
resulted in the withholding of the prestigious Bialik literary
award from the author.6 The last segment of Yizhar’s fictional
compositions consists of the stories in
Sippurei mishor
and others
which were not collected to date. They take place in an innocent
3 Short stories whose central character is a child or an adolescent and whose set­
ting and plot components bear striking similarity to familiar details of Yizhar’s
biography include:
Tarazinot
(1958),
Be-Raglayim yehefot
(1959),
Be-Gabei ahiv
(1963), and the above cited collection,
Sippurei mishor
(1963) which contains
four stories.
4 This is a more accurate translation than “The Prisoner”as the story is known to
English readers.
5 The merit of this story and its companion story
Hirbet H iz’ah
were still being
debated some thirty years later when the latter was made into an Israeli televi­
sion movie.
6 A judicious evaluation o f this unusual composition appears in Robert Alter’s
After the Tradition
(New York, 1969), pp. 210-25.