Page 178 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Bialik and Tschernichowsky. The critic Joseph Klausner hailed
him as the first truly urban poet in Hebrew in contrast to Bialik
the
shtetl
poet and Tschernichowsky the
rural
poet. He compared
Shneour to Dostoevsky as a “cruel talent” preoccupied with death
and desolation and rejecting the optimism and romanticism o f
much o f the Hebrew writing o f his day.4 Shneour actually had
much in common with other early twentieth-century Hebrew
poets such asJacob Cahan, David Shimoni and Jacob Steinberg,
all o f whose work was characterized by a striving for harmony
and the merging o f man with the cosmos, on the one hand, and
with a cataclysmic conception o f human life as irreversibly sliding
toward destruction and annihilation, on the other.5 Jacob
Fichman, an early admirer o f Shneour, saw in him an unrivalled
analytical voice in modern Hebrew poetry whose gift was both
“scientific” and poetic. “No one else demanded absolute certainty
and clarity- No one fought as he did for cognition o f the world,
for complete perception.”6 One o f the alluring aspects o f
Shneour’spoetry is indeed a constant interpenetration o f passion
and intellect which manages to avoid sentimentality and ideol­
ogy. It is a poetry o f ideas which flow from personal emotional
experience.
REBELLIOUS S P IR IT
Shneour was one o f several outstanding creative rebels and
iconoclasts who illumined Jewish life and letters at the beginning
o f the twentieth century. This group, whose roots may be found
in the work o f such Haskalah writers as Y.L. Gordon and M.L.
Lilienblum, included Y.H. Brenner, M.Y. Berdichevsky, A.D.
Gordon and S. Tschernichowsky. Their writings were marked by
an embracing o f the non-Jewish secular world, strong reaction
against the world o f traditional Judaism, a search for answers to
the problems o f contemporary Jewry in the remote biblical past
and, most importantly, powerful individuality and personal
vision. These writers were all deeply committed to the survival
and advancement o f theJewish people and to the development o f
4 cf. Joseph Klausner,
Meshorerey Doreynu
(Jerusalem, 1956), pp. 113, 131.
5 cf. Avraham Shaanan,
Ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Hadasha li-Zerameha,
vol. IV (Te l
Aviv, 1967), p. 11.
6
Jacob Fichman,
Kitvey Yaakov Fichman
(Te l Aviv, 1959), p. 364.