Page 72 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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S.Y. Agnon and Knut Hamsun:
Scandinavian Traces in Modern
Hebrew Literature
O n e
o f
t h e
m o s t
r em a r k a b l e
e x a m p l e s
o f
l it e r a r y
influence in
modern Hebrew literature was evidenced in the impact of Scan­
dinavian literature upon Hebrew writers. Traces of Scandinavian
literature in the developing Hebrew fiction are observed mainly
at the beginning of the 20th century. Ibsen, Strindberg, Jakob-
son, Bj0rnson, and, most of all Hamsun, played a significant part
in the thematic development of Hebrew literary creativity in fic­
tion down to the 1940s.1
These Scandinavian authors had made a vivid ideological-
aesthetic impression upon European literature for many years
and were accepted with special enthusiasm by Jewish authors
who, in Europe, and later in Israel, were actively turning a
neglected biblical Hebrew into a vibrant literary language.
For various historical reasons, which had social, cultural and
aesthetic consequences, there had been a suspension in the evolu­
tion of Hebrew narrative. The first literary works of Hebrew
prose fiction did not begin to emerge until the end of the 18th
century. Consequently, as Hebrew authors began to pen their
1 This paper includes some general observations concerning the influence of
Hamsun on Agnon. I have discussed other aspects o f the subject elsewhere:
“Agnon and Hamsun: in the Domain of Similarity, in the Dominion o f Influ­
ence” (in Hebrew),
vol. 55: no. 4-5, 1983, pp. 22-27; “Between
Hebrew and Scandinavian Literature: Where Oscillating Structures Become
Osculation Points,”
Modem Judaism,
vol. 5; no. 4, 1986, pp. 51-77; “August
Strindberg and S.Y. Agnon: Swedish Cantons in the Regions o f Modern
Hebrew Literature.”
vol. 24: no. 1, 1985, pp. 35-55. My final con­
clusions will be presented in a future book:
The Triple Cord: Agnon, Hamsun,
6 4