Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 9 (1950-1951)

Basic HTML Version

RECENT BOOKS IN ISRAEL
By
G
a b r i e l
P
r e i l
T
HE selection of titles presented here is not, of course, definitive
in any sense. Not all have come to our attention, nor could
all those we knew of be obtained. Also, since the present writer
is not a professional bibliographer, he may not have travelled the
straight road prescribed for all dutiful practitioners of this science.
He aimed instead to give the reader a cross-section of what fairly
represents the Hebrew book market in Israel today.
To be noted is not the predominance of the usual literary fare,
such as fiction and poetry, excellent as these may be by them-
selves. Neither is the endless stream of war books, still pouring
from the presses, of especial interest to the literate and discriminat-
ing. Most of these works are rather competent reportorial state-
ments, having no bearing on art as such. What is enlightening is
the publication of encyclopedias and other reference works, a
whole array of which appeared in Israel during the last year or so.
In a sense, it is another, and by this time almost superfluous,
indication that Hebrew has become
the
language of the Jewish
state. The exact sciences, no less than the proverbial Jewish
“abstract” interests, demand basic treatment; this basic knowledge
required by students in a newly evolving community is a factual
need. Another sign of coming of age, in a perhaps more limited
esoteric sense, is the qualitative output of essays, comparatively
speaking, an undeservedly neglected field. Yet Hebrew literature
did produce in the past such outstanding essayists as Ahad Ha’am
and David Frishman, to mention but two at random. And it is
only for the last several years that the voice of the man who in
the quiet of his study attempts to evaluate the imponderables of
mores, ideas and letters, remained unheard.
One cannot consider the increasingly frequent appearance of
works of reference and essays as significant from an overall
viewpoint. Fiction is still, as stated above, the pivot of literary
activity in Israel — and it is the younger men among the fiction
purveyors who claim the attention of the reader. Moshe Shamir,
for example, may not be the finest storyteller extant; but he is
of the Israeli soil, and as such akin to the multitude. This is not
to say that young novelists such as S. Yizhar or Nathan Shaham
3 6