Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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ABERBACH /AGNON AND THE NEED FOR TRADITION
103
from Blumah, he decided on her. If she would not marry him
for love, she would consent out o f pity.21
W ith e x t ra o rd in a ry verba l sadism , he even calls his son ‘my
o r p h a n ’ — an d in M ina’s h e a r in g — as if his fan tasy o f M ina’s
d e a th has been fu lfilled .
H irsh l’s ‘so lu tion ’ to his em o tiona l e n t r a pm e n t by his m o th e r
is to disp lace h e r image on to M ina, now th a t h e r m a te rn a l in ­
stincts a re a ro u sed , an d to take his son ’s place in h e r affections.
Fa r from be ing tro u b led when the son, who is ill, is taken to
re c u p e ra te with M ina’s p a ren ts , his f irs t g en u in e des ire fo r his
wife is a ro u sed precisely on the n igh t when th e baby is taken
away.
T h e p rob lem s u n d e r ly in g A g n o n ’s stories a re spelled o u t with
ra re clarity an d fo rce in
A Simple Story.
Pa ren ta l m an ipu la tion
o f the h e ro as an object r a th e r th an as an ind iv idua l, an d a
fa ilu re to love him fo r h im se lf a lone , lead to a sense o f inco­
he rence , a dislocation betw een his fan tasy life an d the o u te r
world , an d to pa in fu l d ifficu lties in the h e ro ’s a ttachm en ts to
o the rs . H e re it is re levan t to m en tion th a t this was Kafka’s d i ­
lemm a also, as his “L e t te r to His F a th e r” shows. In the letter,
Kafka insists time an d again th a t his f a th e r ’s ov e rb ea r ing n a tu re
has stifled his self-assertiveness, leaving him frozen in the filial
state, unab le to launch o u t in to life, rem a in in g d e p e n d e n t on
his family. T h e n igh tm a r ish q u an d a r ie s o f Kafka’s creations,
such as Jo s e p h K., when try ing to dea l with au tho r ity o r to
c rea te new ties, po in t to the p rob lem with the fa th e r . Kafka
goes so fa r as to confess th a t “My w riting was all abou t you .”
PARENTAL YOKE
T h e A gnon h e ro lives in con s tan t t e r r o r o f be ing swallowed
u p by th e spec tre o f p a ren ta l au tho r ity . Fo r this reason , like
a child s trugg ling to gain in d ep en d en c e , he is always b reak ing
away from w ha t he is a t the same time ho ld ing on to. His f u n ­
d am en ta l state, in his actions as well as in his re la tionsh ips , is
one o f t ran s ition from one goal which has no t yet been reached ,
to an o th e r . In A
Simple Story,
fo r exam p le , H irsh l is to r tu r e d
by his excessive p rox im ity to o r his d istance from his wife:
21.
Ibid.,
p. 262.