Page 172 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
in signing articles and contributed essays on timely topics to the
dailies
Davar
and
M a ’ariv.
Through hindsight, one can establish the two controversial
short stories of 1948-49 as having had as much to do with
determining Yizhar’s professional agenda as any particular ac­
tual event may have had. For through the manner and intensity
of the public response which
Ha-Shavuy
and
Hirbet H iz’ah
have
engendered, it was apparent to Yizhar that literature does indeed
provoke, rankle and stimulate readers. Ironically, those very
same stories which drew the greatest public response were (as the
author must have realized), the most un-Yizharesque of his com­
positions. As noted, both stories were unpretentious, lucid and
readable,14 in stark contrast with Yizhar’s earlier works.
The author’s ability to communicate a deeply felt concern
along with his apparent success in reaching a wide, unsophistica­
ted audience, probably had something to do with Yizhar’s deci­
sion to abandon the medium of fiction. This could not have been
an easy decision for a writer of such sensibilities; whose solipcism
and almost mystical attachment to the Hebrew language have
rendered him very difficult to translate.
Considering the direction taken by his writings during the last
two decades, it is clear that Yizhar remained ambivalent vis-a-vis
the question of literature and of the artist’s role in society. On the
one hand, he categorically rejects the notion that literature is an
instrument of social action — stating so in his dissertation and in
countless articles — while on the other, he challenges his fellow
countrymen to respond to ideas and to events by initiating action
and by participation in publicly oriented activities.
Yizhar vehemently rejects the view of literature as a form of
communication or as mimesis or even as an expression of con­
flicts and ideas. He maintains that in order to become a work of
art, literature combines such ingredients as inner conflict and the
innate need for expression into elements defined as language.
Language, according to Yizhar, is thus the tool from which the
created object is fashioned. That object possesses a form, a struc­
ture we call a
story
or a
poem.
Referring perhaps to the difficulty which readers have experi­
enced in coming to terms with his own works, Yizhar dismisses
the idea that poems are means of communication, by stating that
14 These stories are included in the curriculum o f public high schools in Israel.