Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
A variation on the same mode of writing utilized in connection
with the town of the author’s birth is evident in the concluding
chapter of Agnon’s posthumous book,
In Mr. Lublin’s Store.20
While the work as a whole focuses upon the German city of
Leipzig where the persona (as did the biographical author) spent
some time during World War I, upon its shopkeepers and arti­
sans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and presents an extensive and
realistic picture of life in Leipzig and of its people during the war
years, the eighth or concluding chapter speaks in a different
idiom and focuses upon a different subject: no longer Leipzig
and its people during the war years, but rather the persona’s own
town along the River Streifa21 which flows through Bucacz. And
while the other chapters of the work contain a few isolated start-
lingly surrealistic passages, the force of imagination and fantasy
prevails in the book’s final chapter.
The previous chapter of the novel closes as the persona, who
had been minding the story of Mr. Lublin, a native of the perso­
na’s hometown who long before had run away from his father
and established himself in Leipzig, volunteered to remain in the
store even after it was no longer necessary for him to do so.22 Sit­
ting there alone, as he chose to do, his thoughts turned exclu­
sively to his native town. Bialik’s well-known poem,
Levadi
(“Alone”),23 reverberates as the persona sits alone in the store just
as he had sat alone in the house of study in the town of his birth.
For Agnon, as in “The Sign,” being alone serves as a context in
which external reality loses its hold on a person’s consciousness
and fantasy takes over. While sitting in a store in Leipzig, the per­
sona, in his consciousness, finds himself in the Galician town.
The concluding chapter opens as a guest enters to visit with
him. It is Jacob Stern, whom the persona knew in his youth when
he would take walks with the much older man who was a store­
house of details and happenings and stories about his town. Stern
was a living memory of the town’s past, so faithful to the town that
20
Be-hanuto shel mar Lublin
(Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, 1975). The last chapter
appeared in 1963-64 both in the literary section o f
Haaretz
and in
M a ’asef
le-divre sifrut bikkoret vehagut.
21
Be-hanuto shel mar Lublin,
p. 182. While the Galician town is never mentioned
by name in that novel, the detail that the River Streifa flows through the town
identifies it as Bucacz.
22
Ibid.,
p. 161.
23
Kol kitve H.N. Bialik
(Tel Aviv, 1951), p. 33.