Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
insensitivity in fa iling to recogn ize fully how obsessive an d in ­
vo lun ta ry these cha rac teristics a re , a n d how d is tas te fu l to A gnon
h im self. A cco rd ing to Dov Sadan , who fo r m any years was
A g n o n ’s p r iva te secre tary , A gnon d e te s ted his c rea tions . H e
wou ld have liked to c rea te a totally d i f f e r e n t type o f ch a ra c te r
an d was d ism ayed to f ind th a t all his m a jo r c rea tion s were ,
to a la rge ex ten t , p ro jec tions o f h im se lf .10
A few o f A g n o n ’s fr iend s , in c lud ing G e rshom Scholem , saw
b eh in d his masks a n d his supe rfic ia l g rega r iou sne ss . In 1948
Scholem w ro te o f A gnon as a lonely, to rm e n te d m an who fe lt
h im se lf to be cu t o f f from o the rs :
Looking back at the years that I have had the privilege o f know­
ing him, I feel that he is encompassed by enormous spiritual
loneliness, though to all appearances he is everybody’s friend.
Sometimes I wonder if he hasn’t set up something o f the the­
atrical or o f the circus show as a blind to his loneliness . . . Some
o f us who have insight would say that he becomes involved with
people and even exaggerates his links with them in order that
they might leave him alone . . . Not knowing how to get rid
o f you, he walks with you, pouring out his inner thoughts. You
feel, despite his haste in greeting everyone, that his heart isn’t
in it. Approachable as he is, at the same time he distances himself
from people and ignores them .11
A g n o n ’s n e ed fo r d istance was p a r ticu la r ly ev id en t in his
m a rita l life. W hen in 1924 A gnon left his wife a n d c h i ld ren
an d w en t to Palestine , he h o p e d th a t they wou ld follow la te r
on . A g n o n ’s wife w ro te to him d u r in g this yea r- long sep a ra tion ,
con fessing h e r doub ts th a t th e m a r r iag e wou ld last. In a le t te r
o f A ugu s t 1925, she sugges ted th a t w hen she an d th e c h i ld ren
a r r iv ed in Palestine , they shou ld live a p a r t : “A life c loser to ­
g e th e r — so I u n d e r s ta n d y o u r feelings — will b r in g no good
to e i th e r o f u s .” 12 N o t th a t she failed to love h im deep ly . Bu t
d u r in g the e n t ire five years o f th e i r m a rr iag e , she w ro te , “you
have no t b u d g e d f rom y o u r rese rva tion s tow ards me. In y o u r
h e a r t o f h ea r ts you still feel y o u rse lf to be d ep r iv ed . . . ” 13
10. Personal communication to the author, Dov Sadan.
11.
Devarim be-Go
(Essays), Am Oved: Tel Aviv, 1975, p. 465. Reprinted from
Ha-Aretz
13.8.1948.
12.
Esterlein Yakirati
(Letters to Esther Agnon), Schocken: Jerusalem & Tel Aviv
1983, p. 122.
13.
Ibid.,
p. 121.