Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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ARYEH WINEMAN
Agnon: The Writer and His Town
A Jew, residing with his wife’s parents in another town, felt yearn­
ings for his own town. He was embarrassed, however, to mention
to anyone the longings o f his heart, for to another’s eyes all places
are the same, whereas a person who was born in our town but who
lives elsewhere remembers his town and that memory is always
present in his heart.1
T
h o u g h
d e s c r ib i n g
a
p a r t i c u l a r
c h a r a c t e r
in a story, this and
similar passages in the writings of S.Y. Agnon are easily seen to
voice the author’s own feelings for his native town. The writer,
whose family name was originally Czaczkes, was born just a cen­
tury ago in the summer of 1888 in the Galician town of Bucacz
which he made famous th rough his fiction. Though he left
Bucacz in 1907 and continued writing until his death in 1970, his
birthplace serves as setting — and also as subject — of much of his
literary creation. In that way the writer who is generally recog­
nized as the master of twentieth-century Hebrew prose-fiction
and as one of the most talented artists of modern Israel, 1967
recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, immortalized in his
writings that town situated in eastern Galicia, the part of Poland
included in the old Austro-Hungarian empire and today part of
the Ukraine. One of numerous such communities which were
located in Galicia and certainly not among the largest or most sig­
nificant in any objective sense merited renown at the hands of
one of its children.
The feelings of Agnon toward his birthplace have not
remained static through the years. Before leaving Bucacz at the
age of nineteen, the author published an anonymous essay enti­
tled “City of the Dead”2in which he described the provinciality of
his town in the most macabre of terms. The feelings conveyed in
1
Ir umelo’ah
(Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 1973), p. 166.
2 “Ir ha-metim,”
Ha-et,
No. 19 (Lemberg, March 13, 1907).
5 4