Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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96
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
stories, mostly in Y iddish , h ad a lre ady b egun to a p p e a r in the
local Jew ish press.
In 1907 A gnon was fo rced to leave hom e to evade con sc r ip ­
tion in to the A u s t ro -H u n g a r ia n arm y . He chose to go to
Palestine w he re he sp e n t th e n ex t six years, mostly in J a f f a
w he re he led a sem i-bohem ian life. H e re he imm ed ia te ly es­
tab lished his rep u ta t io n as a g if ted H eb rew w r ite r , with stories
which have no t lost th e i r app ea l , such as “A g u n o t ,” from which
he took his p seudonym , an d the novella “V e-H aya he-Akov le-
M isho r” (And th e C rook ed Shall Be M ade S tra igh t). D u r in g
this p e r io d he h ad no t yet a b a n d o n e d his re lig ious practices.
Fo r a time, he was a disciple o f th e fam ou s Rabbi A b rah am
Isaac Kook, la te r th e C h ie f Rabbi o f Palestine. Bu t d u r in g th e
same p e r iod , his best f r ien d was a b ro od ing , im p e tu o u s Russian ,
a liena ted from his trad i t io n — th e H eb rew novelist, J .C .
B ren n e r .
GERMAN PER IOD
A f te r his f a th e r ’s d e a th in 1913, A gnon se ttled in G e rm any .
D u r ing the war he led a shiftless, d iso rgan ized life. H e gave
u p his O r th o d o x y an d had a n um b e r o f a ffa irs with G en tile
women , which he la te r rem em b e red with relish an d guilt. He
m e t M artin B ube r , G e rshom Scholem , an d S.Z. Schocken who
becam e his pub lishe r . H e c o n t in u ed to w rite an d to conso lida te
his re p u ta t io n as th e lead ing H eb rew stylist. A f te r his m a rr iag e
in 1920, he m oved to H om b u rg an d by 1922 h ad two ch i ld ren .
In 1924 a fire w recked his hom e de s troy ing a valuab le lib rary
an d m anu sc r ip ts . Soon a f te r , A gnon r e tu r n e d to Palestine , d e ­
c id ing in th e cou rse o f his jo u rn e y to r e tu r n to O r th o d o x Ju d a ­
ism. In a le t te r to Schocken he con fessed th a t he lacked peace
o f m ind . D isillusioned with E u ro p e an cu l tu re , he felt th a t he
o u g h t to live p e rm an en t ly am o n g O r th o d o x Jews. A few days
la te r he m ade his decision: “I f a m an is p riv ileged to live in
the L and o f Israel, he shou ld observe th e
mitzvot
an d co n t in u e
in the way o f his an ce s to rs .”8
Until his d e a th in 1970, A gnon lived with his fam ily in Je r ­
usalem and d ed ic a ted h im se lf to his a r t . T o casual acqua in tance s
8. A.M. Habermann, “Sihot im S.Y. Agnon” (Conversations with Agnon),
Ha-
Doar
8 Tevet 1976, p. 91.