Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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WINEMAN / AGNON: THE WRITER AND HIS TOWN
5 5
that piece later gave way to very different feelings concerning his
birthplace. In
A Wayfarerfo r the Night,
3a novel written some thirty
years later, he portrayed the town in a hopeless state of decline
du ring the period following World War I, and the chasm
between the beauty of childhood memories and present realities
comprises a personal crisis for the persona who returns home for
a prolonged visit; the flux of history and time leaves him with a
permanent sense of homelessness. Still later, after the destruction
of the Jewish population of Bucacz, Agnon’s stories of that town
constitute an act of lovingly memorializing the community which
had existed there as the reader often overhears elegiac tones in
the foreground of the stories.
Prior to his death, Agnon planned a volume of his collected sto­
ries of Bucacz, some previously published, many of them not. His
daughter, Emunah Yaron, later compiled the collection which
appeared in 1973 entitled
A Town and its Fulness
.4
The stories in
the collection begin with the town’s earliest days some eight-
hundred years ago; in the concluding story, a native son learns of
the fate of the Jews of his town during the Holocaust.5 The
intervening stories tell of Bucacz at various points in time: the
Chmielnitzky attack and the Tartar invasions which followed, the
appearance of hasidim in the town and the political changes
which occurred as Galicia came under Austrian rule with its pol­
icy of long-term military conscription for a designated number of
Jewish lads. Unlike his earlier writings, there are few signs in
these stories of inner decline or breakdown of traditional Jewish
life and values, and the Jewish community of Bucacz appears
almost oblivious to currents of change until the Nazis, in a single
stroke, demolished the scene of Jewish life in Bucacz.
WORLD OF LEARNING
It is interesting that while Hasidism, the pietistic movement
which emerged in the eighteenth century, is significant in the fic­
tion of Agnon as a whole, in
A Town and its Fullness
it is relegated
3
Oreah nata lalun
(1938-39).
Kol sippurav shel Shmuel YosefAgnon
(Jerusalem and
Tel Aviv, 1962), vol. IV. In this novel, the name o f the town — which mirrors
Bucacz in every detail — is Shibbush.
4
Ir umelo'ah
(Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 1973).
5 “Ha-Siman,”
Ir umelo’ah,
pp. 695-716. The story was, earlier, included in
Ha-
Esh veha-etsim (Kol sippurav shel Shmuel Yosef Agnon,
vol. VIII, 1962), pp.
283-312.