Page 141 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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YUDKIN / REALITY IN THE FICTION OF YAAKOV SHABTAI
133
ultimate duty or absurd termination. Similarly, we might also
ask such questions o f the novel. A steep and apparently inev­
itable decline could be reversed in terms o f the surrealistic end ­
ing. Certainly, the final section marks an idyllic transformation:
“All was conducted in perfect tranquillity,”2 following up a per­
fectly realistic description o f the hero Meir’s return to Israel,
after a foreign tour, during which he had fallen ill. Nothing,
as in Ecclesiastes itself, has previously prepared us for this sort
o f consummation. The world surrounding Meir had been d e ­
scribed as a world falling apart. His mother had died after a
period o f growing disenchantment and despair, and he himself
had got sick after an unconvincing attempt to shake himself
out o f an increasing lethargy and alienation. The foreign tour
was a hoped-for rebirth, but it culminated in personal disaster,
following his usual cycle o f indecision and lack o f fulfillment
in all projects, great and small.
So, is the end o f the matter climax, resignation or reversal?
Referral to the biblical source, with the assertion that “ . . . un­
intentionally or otherwise, the voice o f Ecclesiastes resounds
throughout,”3 has the paradoxical effect o f redirecting the ques­
tion in two ways. What concerns us here is the reality reflected
in Shabtai’s work, the effect created as well as the means sum­
moned to achieve that effect. What we will see again is a binary
opposition between two poles, pulling the protagonists, who are
also narrative voices either in the direction o f irritation, disen­
chantment and despair, or towards an idyllic vision. This latter
can be encapsulated either by an idealization o f the past, the
past o f the locus, Tel-Aviv, the past o f the protagonist’s own
youth, o f the representation o f that youth through the presence
o f an older but dying generation (the grandmother), or by some
sort o f idealized future, such as that portrayed in the final sec­
tion o f
S o f da va r ,
with its perfect mystical union in ideal sex,
in the vision o f total freedom and access, when all the wonderful
dead are reunited with the live narrator. (Or is it the reverse
— that the narrator is united with the dead through his own
death?) He is, in any case, reborn.
2.
Sof davar.
(Tel-Aviv, Siman Keriah/HaKibbutz Hameukhad, 1984), p. 208.
All references are to the pagination o f the Hebrew publications.
3. Zach, ibid.