Israeli Nobel Laureate S.Y. Agnon's famous masterpiece, his novel "Only Yesterday," here appears in English translation for the first time. Published in 1945, the book tells a seemingly simple tale about a man who immigrates to Palestine with the Second Aliya--the several hundred idealists who returned between 1904 and 1914 to work the Hebrew soil ...Read MoreIsraeli Nobel Laureate S.Y. Agnon's famous masterpiece, his novel "Only Yesterday," here appears in English translation for the first time. Published in 1945, the book tells a seemingly simple tale about a man who immigrates to Palestine with the Second Aliya--the several hundred idealists who returned between 1904 and 1914 to work the Hebrew soil as in Biblical times and revive Hebrew culture. "Only Yesterday" quickly became recognized as a monumental work of world literature, but not only for its vivid historical reconstruction of Israel's founding society. This epic novel also engages the reader in a fascinating network of meanings, contradictions, and paradoxes all leading to the question, what, if anything, controls human existence? Seduced by Zionist slogans, young Isaac Kumer imagines the Land of Israel filled with the financial, social, and erotic opportunities that were denied him, the son of an impoverished shopkeeper, in Poland. Once there, he cannot find the agricultural work he anticipated. Instead Isaac happens upon house-painting jobs as he moves from secular, Zionist Jaffa, where the ideological fervor and sexual freedom are alien to him, to ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist Jerusalem. While some of his Zionist friends turn capitalist, becoming successful merchants, his own life remains adrift and impoverished in a land torn between idealism and practicality, a place that is at once homeland and diaspora. Eventually he marries a religious woman in Jerusalem, after his worldly girlfriend in Jaffa rejects him. Led astray by circumstances, Isaac always ends up in the place opposite of where he wants to be, but why? The text soars to Surrealist-Kafkaesque dimensions when, in a playful mode, Isaac drips paint on a stray dog, writing "Crazy Dog" on his back. Causing panic wherever he roams, the dog takes over the story, until, after enduring persecution for so long without "understanding" why, he really does go mad and bites Isaac. The dog has been interpreted as everything from the embodiment of Exile to a daemonic force, and becomes an unforgettable character in a book about the death of God, the deception of discourse, the power of suppressed eroticism, and the destiny of a people depicted in all its darkness and promise.Read Less
652 pages. Softcover. Fair condition. FICTION. Tells a seemingly simple tale about a man who immigrataes to Palestine during the Second Aliya-the period between 1904 and 1914 when many Jewish idealists returned to work the Hebrew soil as in biblical times and revive Hebrew culture. Only Yesterday quickly became recognized as a major work of world literature, but not only for its vivid historical reconstruction of Israel's founding society. This monumental novel also engages the reader in a fascinating network of meanings, contradictions, and pareadoxes all leading to yhr question, What, if anything, controls human existence? Translated from the Hebrew into English by Barbara Harshav. "[A] scathing vision of God and man, Zionism and Jewish history, desire and guilt, language and meaning....A work of powerful and eccentric, originality."-Robert Alter, Los Angeles Times (Key Words: S. Y. Agnon, Nobel Prize Winners, Hebrew Literature, Barbara Harshav, Palestine, Second Aliya, Novels, Fiction, Zionism, God, Jewish Idealists, Hebrew Culture).
Publishers Weekly, 2000-03-27 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 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 doesn't lead his brush"--and the same can be said of this book's 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 Dostoyevski's 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" Isaac's stay in Jerusalem and is interwoven with his fate and that of Shifra's father. Agnon's 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 by Harshav informs readers about the historical background to the story and Agnon's place in 20th-century literature. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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