Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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MAZOR/S.Y. AGNON AND KNUT HAMSON
6 7
materials in the compared texts are found to represent patterns
and not just sporadic elements, the more justification we have for
ascribing influence, not only coincidental resemblance.
The fourth indicator is
coherence.
The more the parallel compo­
nents and patterns recur in parallel works (in atmosphere, emo­
tional aura, and ideological and thematic trends), the more valid­
ity may be attributed to the claim of influence.
Applying these four indicators, reveals an unquestionable basic
influence of Hamsun on Agnon in fictional details and in under­
lying currents.
The influence of Hamsun upon Agnon is reflected in a rich
variety of literary phenomena which are channeled into three
main branches: 1) themes, motifs and symbols, 2) patterns of plot
and local scenes, and 3) ideological orientation and the invoking
of atmosphere (which function in both concrete and metaphor­
ical ways). Some of Agnon’s most pervasive thematic concerns,
symbols and motifs that are inspired by Hamsun include the fol­
lowing: a “la belle dame sans merci” figure (who attracts and
rejects the castigated lover); the motif of the “false substitute,”
which sustains the never fulfilled love and lack of peace of mind;
the figure of the outsider, who breaks into an undisturbed world,
denies and rejects its conventions, and violates its balance; the
motif of the chastizing absence of home, or sheltering roof, as it is
strongly expressed in
Hunger;
the motif of the forest as a meto-
nym o f the lonely hero who cannot adjust to the normal
standards and demands of society. All these motifs, literary com­
ponents and trends appear so extensively in Agnon’s works that
they point to a specifically Hamsunian source.
O f course, some of these motifs and trends are not found
exclusively in Hamsun’s works and are shared by other writers
exposed to the same literary and cultural background. But the
way Hamsun carves out and shapes these traditional materials is
unique, and because they appear with such similarity in Agnon’s
writings, we may indeed claim literary influence.
A notable example of the adoption by Agnon of a Hamsunian
symbol is seen in his use of the erotic shoe and its various meto-
nyms, such as the leg, the foot, and the sock. Many of Hamsun’s
impressionistic works draw extensively upon this symbol in order
to express a frustrated erotic failure.
Victoria
opens with an erotic
combat between Johans and Otto which is expressed through
Victoria’s shoes; her shoes are too thin and unsuitable for cross-