Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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resplendence — Yonatan’s reconciliation with his past, his
Jewishness, and life itself is complete. And though his father
Yolek has by now lapsed into a pitiful senility, there is, the novel’s
ending suggests, reason to hope that Yolek’s despairing letter to
Levi Eshkol about the Israeli future is indeed not the last word.
At the beginning of this essay we asked whether the occurrence
of an impossible moon in each of two recently published Hebrew
novels was merely a coincidence. The question, it now seems,
needs rephrasing, for the coincidence, if it is such, is much larger.
A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz have not only both violated the laws
of nature in similar ways; they have both written works of fiction,
obviously published too closely together for one to have influ­
enced the other, in which a seemingly realistically told story turns
out to have a “hidden” plot whose subject is no less than the frag­
mented Jewish soul in Israel today. And though their visions of
this fragmentation and the direction in which it is headed differ
greatly, the techniques they have used to portray it are remark­
ably alike. Is
coincidence too?
Clearly it is not. Both of these authors have been influenced by
the same tradition of Hebrew fiction and both write in a social
context in which the original determinants of this tradition are
still very much alive. True, for some Israeli authors, writing in
Hebrew today is simply a matter of using their native tongue; had
they grown up speaking another, they would be writing in that.
For many others who still take Zionism seriously, however — and
both Oz and Yehoshua belong firmly to this group — the connec­
tion between Hebrew authorship and Jewish commitment re­
mains significant. In respect of this commitment, of course, nei­
ther Yehoshua nor Oz have had any difficulty expressing them­
selves in direct, non-fictional terms; as essayists and public
speakers, both have addressed public issues repeatedly and have
not been sparing of harsh criticisms. And yet it may well be that
when p ro je c t in g th e i r most h igh ly im ag ina tive , boldly
speculative, deeply fearful, or wildly hopeful visions of the Jewish
and Israeli condition, they are still more comfortable with the in­
direction of fiction, which always leaves room for a retreat. (It is
interesting that, whereas in their essays Yehoshua is generally the
less pessimistic of these two writers, on a symbolic level it is
A Late