Written in pieces over the last fifteen years of his life and published posthumously, S. Y. Agnon’s A City in Its Fullness is an ambitious, historically rich sequence of stories memorializing Buczacz, the city of his birth. This town in present-day Ukraine was once home to a vibrant Jewish population that was destroyed twice over―in the First World War and again in the Holocaust. Agnon’s epic story cycle, however, focuses not on the particulars of destruction, but instead reimagines the daily lives of Buczacz’s Jewish citizens, vividly preserving the vanished world of early modern Jewry.
Ancestral Tales shows how this collection marks a critical juncture within the Agnon canon. Through close readings of the stories against a shifting historical backdrop, Alan Mintz presents a multilayered history of the town, along with insight into Agnon’s fictional transformations. Mintz relates these narrative strategies to catastrophe literature from earlier periods of Jewish history, showing how Agnon’s Buczacz is a literary achievement at once innovative in its form of remembrance and deeply rooted in Jewish tradition.