Page 175 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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E M A N U E L S. G O L D SM IT H
The Significance of Zalman Shneour
On the Centenary of His Birth
“I
t
i s o n l y
by poets that the life o f any epoch can be synthesized.
Encyclopedias and guides to knowledge cannot do it, for the
good reason that they affect only the intellectual surface o f a
man’s life. The lower layers, the core o f his being they leave
untouched.” 1 The works o f the Hebrew and Yiddish writer
Zalman Shneour are a uniquely significant expression and syn­
thesis o f the sensibilities and strivings o f the Jewish people in the
twentieth century. In his poetry, Shneour voiced the intensity
and passion with which a liberated generation o f Eastern Euro­
pean Jews embraced the Western world while holding firmly to
the inner core o f Jewish self-respect and cultural identity. In his
prose, he presented a vision o f the basic humanity o f generations
o f ordinary Jews and chronicled major trends and movements o f
Jewish life in the context o f world history.
Contemporary critics, who take Shneour to task because o f the
rhetoric and verbosity o f his poetry and the sentimentality o f his
prose, fail to reckon with the extraordinary influence and endur­
ing cultural value o f his work. I f nations are to a large extent
invented and sustained by their poets and novelists, Shneour is
undoubtedly amajor architect o f the national and cultural renais­
sance o f the Jewish people in our time. His contributions to the
Hebrew and Yiddish revivals, the Zionist cause and the establish­
ment o f Israel are not inconsiderable. His Hebrew poetry, in par­
ticular, constitutes a major contribution to the Jewish literary
creativity o f the ages. It is unique in content and form and contin­
ues to appeal with its linguistic excellence, universal scope and
1 Aldous Huxley,
Texts and Pretexts
(N ew York, 1933), p. 4.
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