Blow out a belated birthday candle for the master of twentieth-century Hebrew literature. Last week, July 17, was the birthday of Nobel Price-Winning author, S.Y. Agnon. Known as “One of the Great Storytellers of our Time,” Agnon is praised for his theological and philosophical writing involving the conflict between traditional Jewish life and the modern world. His unique and thought-evoking style of writing has been recognized over the years through numerous awards, including the Israel Prize twice. S.Y. Agnon’s captivating writing style has inspired the work of many Hebrew authors to date, such as Yaniv Hagbi and Todd Hasak-Lowy.
Hagbi, a Hebrew, Aramaic, and Jewish Studies professor at the University of Amsterdam, explores Agnon’s attitudes towards Jewish language and tradition in his novel, Language, Absence, Play: Judaism and Superstructuralism in the Poetics of S.Y. Agnon. In this book, he refers to anthologies compiled by Agnon to examine his theoretical orientation integrated into his poetic ideas about language in Jewish theology. Another author of Hebrew literature, Sheila E. Jelen, describes Language, Absence, Play as “”A valuable study whose strength lies in its masterful close readings of Agnon’s work, as well as its comprehensive and relevant overview of post-structural theories of language and authorship.”
Todd Hasak-Lowy is an assistant professor of Hebrew language and literature at the University of Florida. In his book, Here and Now: History, Nationalism, and Realism in Modern Hebrew Fiction, he evokes similar thoughts of Agnon in arguing that Hebrew authors wrote with the belief that accurately representing Jewish society in their texts would both preserve the past and establish the future. While tracing the tensions between the differences of Jewish Fiction, Hasak-Lowy focuses on the texts of S. Y. Abramovitz, Y. H. Brenner, S. Yizhar and S.Y. Agnon.
Read more about each title on the Syracuse University Press website.