Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Twofold" by S. Y. Agnon (1939, first time in English, translated by Jeffrey Saks in observation of Yom Kippur)

"The gabbai honored whomever he chose to honor with opening the ark before the beginning of each pizmon (prayer). The honorees screwed up their faces with a look of self-importance and walked up to the Holy Ark. The shoes on their feet shone like their clean-shaven chins. Their little sons and daughters stood in awe as they gazed at their fathers, who quickly opened the ark that others had just closed. When most of the congregation had gone out, but one pizmon remained in the machzor, the gabbai honored even me with the opening of the ark." From "Twofold"

An excellant detailed article on S. Y. Agnon

Tablet-A New Read on Jewish Life, an excellant resource on all issues related to Jewish culture and Isreal, has just published, in honor of Yom Kippur, the first ever Engish translation of a story by S.Y. Agnon.  The story was wriiten in 1939 and was translated by Jeffrey Saks. Agnon was born in the Ukraine in 1888 and died in Jerusalem in 1970.  He won the Nobel Prize in 1966 and is widely considered one of the most significant modern writers in Hebrew.  Much of his work focuses on the conflicts people find in living in the world in accord with Jewish teachings.  

"Twofold" is set in 1939 in Jerusalem on the high holy day of Yom Kippur.  A man is in the temple performing the requisite rituals and praying.  He begins to think back on observations of the day back in Galacia when he was a young boy.   He recalls his father in the temple. Often the places of honor in the ceremonies are most given to the richest.   He thinks back on the ritualistic garments and their import. We can see the impact of the involuntary and willed memories of the narrator on his this day experience of Yom Kippur.  We see how ancient tradition strengthens him and connects him.

I am glad to have read by first work by S. Y. Agnon.

You can read this story here

Jeffrey Saks is the editor of The Toby Press Edition of the English language edition of the works of Agnon, forthcoming in 2015.   I look forward to this greatly. 

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