Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
authors at the beginning of the 20th century. However, he rep re­
sented an essential literary force for Agnon, the most celebrated
figure in modern Hebrew prose fiction. The political-ideological
views of Hamsun could not offset the basic similarities between
the two men. Both Agnon and Hamsun rejected easy solutions,
and their literary works showed that love is often disrupted and
struggles can only be postponed, never ended.
In dealing with comparative literary research, critics usually
differentiate between two research branches: objective resem­
blance (a parallelism between the compared works), and con­
scious influence. In the Agnon-Hamsun relationship, however,
these two trends cannot be separated.
The findings of a thorough, systematic study of the similarity
between compared texts should be adequate for a study of influ­
ence. The more substantial and intensive the resemblance, the
more convincing the claim of influence. The process of demon­
strating influence is also dependent upon external evidence,
independent of the literary texts. This evidence includes letters,
diaries and statements of the author for whom we are assuming
influence. Obviously, the first preliminary external evidence
must be established before any further investigation is under­
taken; it must be clear that the author was in a position to read the
works of the influential author. In the case of Hamsun and
Agnon, this external evidence is unquestionable. Agnon read
Hamsun’s works in German and more than once ardently and
enthusiastically evaluated them.
But solid and convicing external evidence can never replace
the necessary internal literary evidence, which is the product of a
comparative literary investigation. The best spokesman for the
text is always the text itself. The researcher should consider four
literary indicators that are necessary to prove literary influence.
SOME CRITERIA
The first indicator is
quantity.
The more similar the compo­
nents of the compared texts, the more we advance from random
affinity to conscious influence. The second is
uniqueness.
The
greater the degree of uniqueness among parallel elements, the
greater the degree to which these elements are unconventional
(especially in form), and the greater the potential for influence.
The third indicator is
integrity.
The more the parallel verbal