Midrash Agnon: The Dramatized Ego
A careful reading of different short stories by the Nobel laureate, exploring the complex connections between S.Y. Agnon the man, the author, and the narrator he created. Each week will examine a different story (new translations will be made available). With R. Jeffrey Saks.
Midrash Agnon: The Dramatized Ego: Lesson 1
From Foe to Friend- As we have discussed many times in the past, S.Y. Agnon created a narrator through which he projected an autobiographical illusion into many of his stories and novels. Prof. Arnold Band referred to this as the “Dramatized Ego.” These stories are not so much attempts to relate actual events from his life (although in many cases autobiography rests at the bedrock or initial kernel of individual stories), the first-person narrator we come to know through the his stories – and dreams! – gives us some insight to the Agnon the man and author as well. Each week we will carefully read and unravel a different short story as we explore this feature of the Nobel laureate’s writing. In most cases the translations available are new or otherwise hard to access, and are being revised toward a new upcoming anthology to be published by The Toby Press – S.Y. Agnon Library (http://www.korenpub.com/EN/author/Agnon/93)in 2016. This series will therefore serve as a kind of “workshop” for the new or revised translations and your input to the texts is most welcome. As always, if possible, it is preferable to read the stories in Hebrew as well. (Contact me(firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need access to the Hebrew versions.) Week 1 will explore Agnon’s well-known short story “From Foe to Friend” (MeOyev leOhev) – a fable about Beit Agnon itself, recently illustrated by Shay Charka in this book.(http://www.korenpub.com/EN/products/Agnon/93/9781592643950) The story was produced years ago for Israeli TV (partially narrated by Agnon himself) and can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/Nvk2i0xQNV0 The Hebrew original appears in Agnon’s Elu veElu (http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=185)and can be downloaded from this link.(https://sites.google.com/a/vradeem.tzafonet.org.il/safrut/home/agnon/meoyev/%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%95%D7%99%D7%91%D7%9C%D7%90%D7%95%D7%94%D7%91.doc?attredirects=0)
Midrash Agnon: The Dramatized Ego: Lesson 2
Hemdat- The story “Hemdat”(http://www.webyeshiva.org/wp-content/uploads/14599_0_Hemdat.pdf) (in Hebrew in the volume MeAtzmi el Atzmi)(http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=192) is a biographical description of Agnon’s youth leading up to his aliyah in 1908 at around the age of 20. The character named Hemdat appears in a number of his stories and has always been clearly understood to be the most autobiographical projection of himself into his writing. (Let me know(email@example.com) if you want a copy of the Hebrew.) The story has a number of clear parallels in the opening Prologue of his Temol Shilshom (http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=420&Page=8)(Only Yesterday)(http://www.amazon.com/Only-Yesterday-S-Y-Agnon/dp/0691095442) and reading that section of the novel in tandem with “Hemdat” should prove interesting. You might also wish to take a look at the short story “Hill of Sand” in A Book That Was Lost(http://www.amazon.com/Book-That-Was-Lost-Classics/dp/1592642543/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422174265&sr=1-1) (pp. 95-129).
Midrash Agnon: The Dramatized Ego: Lesson 3
Stories of Childhood- this session we will take a sentimental and nostalgic journey with the Narrator back to his childhood in two short stories: “My Grandfather’s Talmud” and “The Beautiful Story of My Prayer Book” (both appear in Hebrew in Elu veElu -(http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=185) let me know(firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want a copy of the Hebrew texts). These stories are part of the cycle of “portraits” the Narrator/Agnon paints about his youth. In the past we’ve seen other samples from this collection in “Two Pairs” (http://www.webyeshiva.org/class/?cid=875)(session from Nov. 11, 2012, about his Tefillin) and most especially in “The Kerchief” (http://www.webyeshiva.org/class/?cid=441)(from Feb. 13, 2011). The Bialik poem “Lifnei Aron HaSefarim” can be found here (http://benyehuda.org/bialik/bia082.html)and here in translation.(http://www.webyeshiva.org/class/?material=6136)
Midrash Agnon: The Dramatized Ego: Lesson 4
The Last Bus- Arnold Band coined the phrase “Dramatized Ego” specifically in the context of Agnon’s surrealistic tales in the Sefer HaMa’asim (“Book of Deeds” cycle, found in Hebrew in Samukh veNireh(http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=194)). These stories presents an Agnon-like, almost neurotic narrator. Indeed, some have speculated that these stories are none other than the author’s own dreams (and nightmares). We will read “The Last Bus” (http://www.webyeshiva.org/wp-content/uploads/14601_0_The_Last_Bus_-_Draft2.pdf)(one of the stories in this collection) in a first-time translation. For more on the Sefer HaMa’asim stories see the “Nightmare” section of this series (http://www.webyeshiva.org/class/?cid=875)(starting with lecture of Dec. 30, 2012). For images of the kerosene stove and what it meant to use such a thing for laundry, visit this site and see video there.(http://www.nostal.co.il/Site.asp?table=Terms&option=single&serial=12378&subject=%F4%F8%E9%E8%E9%ED%20%F9%E4%E9%E5%20%E1%EE%E8%E1%E7&portal=%E3%E9%F8%E4%20%E5%E1%F0%E9%E9%EF)
Midrash Agnon: The Dramatized Ego: Lesson 5
Who is the Guest in A Guest for the Night?-Agnon’s most profound autobiographical construction was his 1939 novel A Guest for the Night, telling the tale of a nostalgic homecoming visit to Buczacz/Szybucz. For those unable to read the whole novel, attached are selections from the new edition (chapters 15, 79 and 80).(http://www.webyeshiva.org/wp-content/uploads/14602_0_A_Guest_for_the_Night.pdf) The book is available from The Toby Press (http://www.korenpub.com/EN/products/Agnon/93/9781592643578)or on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Guest-Night-S-Y-Agnon/dp/1592643574/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420809739&sr=8-1&keywords=a+guest+for+the+night+toby+press)- in Hebrew as Ore’ah Nata LaLun.(http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=183)
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see www.webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).