A Book That Was Lost: And Other Stories

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Schocken Books, 1995 - Literary Collections - 436 pages
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Many storytellers have arisen to tell the story of East European Jewry, but the achievement of S.Y. Agnon remains singular. His canvas is wider, his erudition vaster, his humor wittier, his irony subtler. Above all, like any great writer, his art transcends the limits of its ostensible subject. To be sure, Agnon's writing is inseparably entwined with the very particular culture of Polish Jewry and its continuation in the Land of Israel. At the same time, however, his art explores the universal questions that preoccupy great writing in all modern cultures: the fragmentary and fallen nature of human experience after the collapse of community and faith, and, as a counterbalance, the turn toward writing with its mythic possibilities and its linguistic and textual playfulness.

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A book that was lost and other stories

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This posthumous collection of short stories by Hebrew literature's only Nobelist (Shira, LJ 9/15/89) includes many pieces that are appearing in English for the first time complete with an ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
3
Agunot
35
The Kerchief
55
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

Shmuel Yosef Agnon was born Shmuel Yosef Halevi Czaczkes in 1888 in Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Poland). He received training in Yiddish, Hebrew and the Talmud from his father, and was introduced to German literature by his mother. When he was fifteen, his first poems, written in Yiddish and Hebrew, were published in the newspaper. He took his pen name, later his legal name, S.Y. Agnon, from the title of his first story Agunot, published in 1909. He lived and worked in Palestine from 1907 until his death in 1970, except for an eleven year stay in Germany. He was buried on the Mount of Olives. Agnon was a prolific novelist and short-story writer. After his move to Jerusalem from Germany, Agnon began writing about the decline of Jewry in Galicia. His first major publication was a two-volume novel, Hakhnasat Kalah (The Bridal Canopy), 1932, which recreates the golden age of Hassidism. Ore'ah Nata' Lalun (A Guest for the Night), 1939, is an apocalyptic novel depicting the ruin of Galicia after World War I. 'Tmol Shilshom (Only Yesterday), published in 1946, is considered his greatest novel, portraying the early pioneer immigrants to Palestine. A great many of his later books are set in his adopted Palestine and deal with the replacement of early Jewish settlements after World War II. Agnon received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, boosting interest in his work outside of Israel. About 85 of Agnon's works have been translated into at least 18 languages. Agnon was made an honorary citizen of Jerusalem in 1962. His portrait appears on the Israeli Fifty New Sheqalim banknote. Other works include Sefer Hamaasim (The Book of Deeds ), published in 1932, Pat Shlema (A Whole Loaf ), from 1933, Shevuat Emunim (Two Tales), 1943, and Kol Sipurav Shel Sh. Y. Agnon ( The Collected Works in 11 volumes), 1931-62.

Alan Mintz is Kekst Professor of Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. His books include Translating Israel: Contemporary Hebrew Literature and Its Reception in America (2001) and The Boom in Contemporary Israeli Fiction (UPNE, 1997) .

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