Page 168 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
era and depict the mischievousness of childhood and the sensibil­
ity of youth. Upon the completion of this cycle of tales Yizhar had
apparently chosen to refrain from writing fiction.
Most of Yizhar’s creative energies have been devoted since the
mid-Sixties to academic concerns and to writing commentaries
on topical issues. One overriding question on which S. Yizhar had
speculated and written extensively was the highly subjective is­
sue: what is the nature of literature? The cumulative effort of
years of research resulted in the publication of a two volume
study entitled
Likro sippur
(To read a story, 1982).
As a former member of the Knesset,7 Yizhar was particularly
sensitive to issues of public concern. Although none of the char­
acters depicted in his stories betray their political allegiance in the
narrow sense of the word, many can be seen as outwardly repre­
senting the traditional ideals of an activist, Socialist way of life
and embodying the spirit of Labor Zionism. However, as the
socio-political agenda changed from that of establishing the per­
fect society through the union of Jews and land to the physical
defense of the state, Yizhar’s characters were certain to reflect the
complexities inherent in such a transition.
COLLECTIVE PROFILE
In the course of two decades of sustained writing of works of
fiction covering more than twenty compositions, S. Yizhar’s cen­
tral character has managed to retain most of his salient features.
The protagonist is a bachelor who ranges in age from fifteen to
fifty and who either resides or is yearning for life in a small com­
munity. He is a man who is highly sensitive and more than
slightly romantic; he bears with him, everywhere, the image of
one ephemeral beautiful woman who remains forever beyond his
reach. The Yizharesque hero jealously guards his privacy and is
given to meditation and lengthy inner discourses. Though he is
never out of touch with reality, he is indecisive, emotionally vul­
nerable and desperately unfulfilled.
Yizhar’s severest critics were the ones who vigorously chal­
lenged his portrayal of the state of moral limbo displayed by the
7 Yizhar was elected as a member of Mapai, the major political party at the time
o f Israel’s establishment, to the first Knesset and has served for five consecu­
tive terms.