Page 147 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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YUDKIN / REALITY IN THE FICTION OF YAAKOV SHABTAI
139
A U T H O R ’S A IM
Despite what seems to be the unchallengeable view o f the
novel’s prevalent thrust, there has been disagreement over its
typology. Is Shabtai a realistic writer17 or a romantic?18 The
former category would assume the faithful imitation o f reality,
the reproduction o f Tel-Aviv life in all its specificity and period
flavor, and the portrayal o f the value system o f the middle-class
Labor voter whose parents came to Palestine with the pioneering
waves, who is now disenchanted with more recent political d e ­
velopments and alienated from the immediate environment.
The second category would imply that the author imposes a
specific vision on his raw material, and shapes it to his needs.
Specifically, Zach sees the obsession with death (as well as its
counterpoint in the search for love) as characteristic o f the ro­
mantic tendency. I would argue, not just for the sake o f com­
promise, that both views are correct.
ZD
does present a remark­
ably precise panorama o f Israeli life in considerable detail and
with great accuracy, as it also grasps the psychology o f the con­
temporary Israeli (and thus o f contemporary Western man).
But it is also true that there is no such animal as value-free
mimesis, and so
ZD
like every other work, is shaped by its con­
trolling mind into some sort o f unitary artifact. Morever,
ZD
has powerful, obsessive themes, a link o f preoccupation
strengthened by being passed from one protagonist to another
and from one situation to the other. What transpires is that
the author uses the observed and transmitted realia to highlight
a motif, the motif o f individual death, with its subjects o f escape,
love, passion, flight and possible reconciliation.
The view o f death is articulated by Goldmann, “ . . . who said
that he was always reflecting on death and the dead, and that
he is trying to reflect on them in tranquillity and happiness,
for, after all, death is the true substance o f life and there was
nothing to be afraid o f .”19 But this large, overarching concern
with the ultimate does not preclude a recognizably irrational
attraction to inappropriate trivia, as witness his interest in the
acquiring o f a scooter: “Goldmann laughed as well, but in an
effort to cover up his embarrassment and humiliation, which
17. Kagan, as cited by Zach, op. cit.
18. As argued by Zach himself.
19.
ZD,
p. 37.