Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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G A L P E R T ---- MODERN H E B R EW L I TERATURE
73
the author spins from his fecund imagination. The entire world
of Galician Jewish life throbs in the book’s pages.
Another novel by S. J. Agnon available in English is
In the
Heart of the Seas
, likewise translated by I. M. Lask (New York,
Schocken Books, 1948). I t is a tale which vividly describes the
pilgrimage of a group of nineteenth century Hasidic Jews to
Palestine. In this peculiarly timeless, even spaceless, odyssey,
the various pilgrims are delicately and charmingly portrayed: how
they lived, what they said and did, and what befell them when
they finally arrived in the Holy Land. Lask has faithfully repro-
duced the gaiety, tender irony, and wisdom of the original.
One more English translation of Agnon’s work which should be
mentioned here, although, because of its subject matter, it can
not properly be categorized as
modern
Hebrew literature, nor is
it fiction, is his
Bays of Awe
(New York, Schocken Books, 1948).
This is an anthology of traditions, sayings and legends, beginning
with the Bible, and concerning the High Holy Days of Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The major portion of the book was
translated by Rabbi Maurice T. Galpert, revised and completed
by Jacob Sloan, and this volume was awarded the Louis LaMed
Foundation prize for 1948.
Judah Steinberg was a charming Hebrew writer, who died in
Odessa in 1908, at the age of forty-four. Reared in an atmosphere
of Hasidic piety, he earned a livelihood by teaching Hebrew. I t
was not until fairly late in life that he began to write his sketches,
based on Hasidic lore, in a lucid, pleasing style. Two volumes of
his stories have been translated into English:
In Those Days
(Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1915),
which deals with the experiences of a Cantonist soldier; and
The
Breakfast of the Birds
(Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication
Society of America, 1917), translated by Emily Solis-Cohen.
Another significant figure is Moses Smilansky, who emigrated
to Palestine from Russia in 1891 and has remained in Israel
ever since. Starting out as a simple agricultural worker, he
became one of the most affluent planters in the land, serving as
president of the Farmers’ Association for several years. He has
achieved prominence, besides, as an editor, essayist, novelist, and
short story writer. The twelve volumes of his published works
reveal a consummate artist, and one can only admire the ease
with which the dramatic patterns of his stories are developed. His
tales, dealing with the early days of the settlers, are replete with
sympathy, warmth, and understanding. Rarely do storytellers
achieve the naturalness and simple serenity of his books. Some of
Smilansky’s stories are available to the English reader in
Palestine
Caravan
, translated by I. M. Lask (London, Methuen, 1936).