Page 179 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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GOLDSMITH /THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ZALMAN SHNEOUR
1 6 7
modern Hebrew culture. Shneour’s poetry actually provides the
intellectual scaffolding and emotional undergirding o f a modern
reinterpretation o f Judaism. His negative attitude toward certain
aspects o f Jewish tradition such as passivity, other-worldliness
and supernaturalism was but a stage in the emergence o f a
deeper ethnic and ethical consciousness.
Shneour was an angry young man o fJewish letters at the begin­
ning o f the twentieth century. A non-conformist and rebel who
sang the praises o f the rebel slave Spartacus, he vented his anger
at the false values and hypocritical conventions o f his time.
Impressed with the concepts o f Schopenhauer, Nietzsche,
Weininger and Spengler, he reflected their ideas o f nihilism and
decadence in searing verse. He attacked many o f his people’s
most cherished beliefs and espoused an almost pagan obsession
with the beauty and majesty o f nature and an unabashed eroti­
cism and sensuality.
Shneour’s popularity among Hebrew readers was probably
due to the fact that his flagrant individualism and flight from the
fetters o f tradition effectively echoed the mood o f his readers, the
recently liberated
yeshiva
students and synagogue recluses.
Burn all the fields behind me, my passions!
I do not wish to return
To the townships of idylls that drown
In the mire o f medieval and rain-soaked days.
Let the tempest tear down all the bridge o f memory!
He
*
*
I no longer want the return of childhood,
The childhood o f the Jewish nation
Oppressed by a nervous father
And strapped by an angry teacher
.7
Shneour had no illusions about what he considered to be the
decadence and hypocrisy o f
Galut
life.
Dejected young man, what seek you in this outlawed city,
Whose mouth uttersjustice and hand holds a whip o fguards tyran­
nous,
7 “I Do Not Wish to Return,” translated by Richard Flantz in
Anthology o fModem
Hebrew Poetry,
ed. S.Y. Penueli and A . Ukhmani (Jerusalem, 1966), vol. 1, p.
168.