Page 113 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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ABERBACH / AGNON AND THE NEED FOR TRADITION
105
When he felt this he was frightened. He had kneaded himself
without feeling. Perhaps his fingers had lost their sense o f touch.
Perhaps he had died.25
More obviously th an m ost o f A g n o n ’s he roes , H irsh l has no t
been b ro u g h t u p to feel his own wo rth . In m adness , his body
reacts by losing physical sensa tion . His d epe rsona liza tion — o r ,
m o re accurately , his no t hav ing becom e a whole pe rson — is
ev iden t in his p e rs is ten t fee ling o f in fe r io r ity , physical as well
as em o tiona l. H e has been led to feel th a t in o r d e r to satisfy
his p a ren ts , especially his m o th e r , an d to avoid be ing h u r t , he
m us t re ta in ch ild-like smallness. T h is he does by m a rry ing Mina.
He illustrates his sense o f filial in fe r io r ity in the asylum by d raw ­
ing a p ic tu re o f h im se lf an d his fa th e r :
Hirshl should have drawn a picture o f his wife and son, but
as he was small in his own eyes, he drew a picture o f his father
to show himself how big father was and how small he was.26
CHARACTER DEPICTION
Lacking w a rm th an d m ean ing , an d the wholeness o f equa l
and loving bond s with o th e rs , th e A gnon h e ro is dogged by
feelings o f em p tiness , uselessness, coldness, num bness , futility.
(These ep ithe ts a re fo u n d in desc rip tions an d se lf-descrip tions
o f him .) Most im p o r ta n t is his conviction th a t life has little o r
no m ean ing . O n e o f th e s tr ik ing illustra tions o f this sense o f
m ean ing lessness occurs in the novella “Ad H e n a ” (T hu s Far).
T h e n a r ra to r , conv inced o f th e futility o f his life, tells a
Kafkaesque p a rab le o f a m a n ’s que s t e n d in g with his discovery
o f a scroll an d the re co u n t in g o f his jo u rn e y :
In short, just as there were seven hills, one on top o f the other,
and seven caves, one inside the other, and the doors, steps, bar­
rels, and boxes were all seven in number, so also there were
seven scrolls. When he finally rolled out the last one, he found
written clearly, ‘Fool! Have you left something here that you
trouble yourself to find?’27
T h e em o tiona l f ragm en ta t io n o f the A gnon h e ro , his sense
25.
Kol Kitve,
vol. 3, p. 214.
26.
Ibid.,
p. 235.
27.
Kol Kitve,
vol. 7, p. 51.