Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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WINEMAN / AGNON: THE WRITER AND HIS TOWN
61
he refused ever to leave its boundaries for any purpose whatso­
ever. This man, however, appears in the story in Leipzig. He does
not speak; he barely reacts, and the persona engages in a mono­
logue in Stern’s presence. Stern is described, at one point, as a
disembodied sorrow. It is mentioned repeatedly that Jacob Stern,
who had always refused to leave his town even for a brief excur­
sion, was now forced to leave it because of the war, but the reader
also learns that this same Jacob Stern had, in fact, already died.24
The figure of Jacob Stern, who appears and also disappears mys­
teriously in the persona’s consciousness and who plants himself as
part of the latter’s external environment parallels the biograph­
ical author in so far as the latter himself was just such a living
memory of the town’s past, preserving that past from oblivion.
SEARCH FOR ROOTS
Many brief stories and anecdotes are interwoven with that final
section of
In Mr. Lublin’s Store.
The most gripping of them is a
strange tale of longing for one’s native town. A Christian from
that very town who had killed a fellow-Christian fled to save his
life and found refuge in Bosnia in the days of Turkish rule.
There, adopting the local mores, he took two wives and pros­
pered and raised a family. But all that meant nothing to him in
the face of his painful longing for the town from which he was
exiled. So when age had altered his appearance he suddenly left
and journeyed for several months to return and see his town
again. Arriving on a Sunday he stood just outside a church to
hear the voices of his townspeople. One of those leaving the
church service was a grandson of the man the exile had killed,
and he had sworn to avenge the murder of his grandfather.
Though born on the day of the murder of his grandfather, he
engraved upon his mind the description of the murderer in
order that he might recognize him even with the passage of years.
The blood-avenger stabbed him with a knife which he had always
carried with him for that purpose. The victim of the stabbing,
however, did not die immediately, and each day he requested
that he be moved to a different part of town in order to fulfill his
longing to see the town; he distributed money to those who so
transported him, and when his money gave out, he died.25
24
Be-hanuto,
p. 186.