The work of S.Y. Agnon, the eminent and prolific Hebrew writer and Nobel Laureate (1888–1970) has been relatively inaccessible to English-speaking audiences, though required reading in Israeli classrooms. Now, editors Anne Golomb Hoffman and Alan Mintz have compiled a masterful, userfriendly volume. They have gathered thirty-five stories, some previously unpublished, and grouped them into seven sections, along a broad geographic-biographical axis that follows Agnon’s migrations from the isolation of his native Galicia to Palestine, Berlin, Hamburg, and the final return with his family to Jerusalem. Short introductions before each section explain the individual stories’ positions in Agnon’s universe.
The stories—deeply imagined, paradoxical, ironic—cover an amazing stylistic range— post-modernism, rabbinic midrashim, and apparently straightforward shtetl tales whose innocence conceals multi-layered complexity.
Born Shmuel Yosef Czaczkes, Agnon created his pseudonym from the title of his 1908 story, Agunot, which itself is derived from the Hebrew agunah—an abandoned wife, at once connected to and separated from the community, who has lost all rights and must remain undivorced by the husband who will not free her. The young writer thus articulated the disconnection and lack of wholeness that would become the central themes of his life and his art.
This gorgeous collection belongs in your personal library, to be read, re-read, lent, shared and discussed again and again.