Only Yesterday S.Y. Agnon

ISBN: 9781400800063

Published:

652 pages


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Only Yesterday  by  S.Y. Agnon

Only Yesterday by S.Y. Agnon
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Israeli Nobel Prize-winner Agnon (1887-1970) is a founding father, like Theodor Herzl. While Herzl founded Zionism, Agnon (A Simple Story- Shira) forged the language of modern Hebrew literature. In this immense novel, first published in 1945 and nowMoreIsraeli Nobel Prize-winner Agnon (1887-1970) is a founding father, like Theodor Herzl. While Herzl founded Zionism, Agnon (A Simple Story- Shira) forged the language of modern Hebrew literature. In this immense novel, first published in 1945 and now translated into English for the first time, Agnon paints the panorama of the second Aliya, or immigration, of Jews to Palestine, which occurred between the turn of the century and WWI.

Isaac Kumer is a young, fervent but feckless young Zionist in the Austrian province of Galicia, whose disappointed father gives him the money to emigrate to Israel. Once Isaac reaches the Land, he becomes a housepainter. As Agnon explains, at first his brush leads him and he doesnt lead his brush -- and the same can be said of this books plot, which goes off on various whimsical tangents. In Jaffa, Isaac tastes his first experience of love with Sonya, a modern woman, but in Jerusalem he meets Shifra, the daughter of a strict religionist, and he is torn between the two.

Sonya is an especially fascinating figure- she resembles the modern women in Dostoyevskis novels, whose liberation is bound up with an existential hypersensitivity that impedes any clear course of action. Impulsively, Isaac one day paints Crazy Dog on the back of a friendly stray. The scruffy canine then wanders around Jerusalem, causing the population to panic. This fantastical subplot dogs Isaacs stay in Jerusalem and is interwoven with his fate and that of Shifras father. Agnons novel has a folkloric quality analogous to the bold simplifications of Chagall, locating the archaic residue lurking just below the surface disenchantment of modernity.

A useful introduction byHarshavinforms readers about the historical background to the story and Agnons place in 20th-century literature.



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