Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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In varying degrees, beginning with
the story from which
he took his name, he sought to recreate the au ra o f the world
o f the tradition and its literary documents.
In these and o the r respects, Agnon’s works comprise a kind
o f bridge between two literatures, between modern Hebrew lit­
e ra tu re and tha t o f the p rem ode rn tradition, between a liter­
a tu re based upon secular assumptions concerning its own cha r­
acter and one whose literary expressions are regarded as sacred
and as comprising o r ramifying T o rah itself.28
T h a t same bridge sometimes assumes the form o f stories hav­
ing a traditional surface beyond which one m ight discover very
contemporary content. T h e reade r might encoun te r an essen­
tially ironic relationship to the traditional sources overheard in
the text. At times allusions to the Kabbalistic sense o f the world-
in-exile evoke a very modern sense o f alienation and estrange­
ment. Or, that same bridge at times assumes the model o f a
secular story along modern lines, one however which upon clos­
er read ing contains the kinds o f allusions to traditional Jewish
sources and concepts which suggest a deeper level o f meaning,
and a secular story then acquires a sacred dimension. Dov
Sadan29 has suggested that the result assumes the model o f a
single narrative which is actually two stories, as each can be
read and appreciated independently on its own level. T h e p a r­
allel with Rabbi N ahman’s conception o f his own Tales is cer­
tainly striking, and in the cases o f both storytellers, notwith­
standing all their differences and the d iffe ren t context o f their
storytelling, we note the attemp t to create a bridge between the
secular imagination and the world o f sacred texts.
28. For a discussion o f the basic differences between the two literatures, see
Barukh Kurzweil,
Sifrutenu ha-Hadashah
Hemshekh o Mahapekhah
salem and Tel-Aviv, 1959), pp. 11-146.
A l Shai Agnon, Masah, Iyyun ve’Heker
(Tel-Aviv: 1967), pp. 88-89.