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The Silence of Heaven: Agnon's Fear of God Hardcover – April 10, 2000

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From Kirkus Reviews

Four essays on Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon by the Israeli novelist Oz (The Story Begins, 1999, etc.), who may well be his greatest living heir. At the outset, Oz readily and gratefully acknowledges Agnon as ``one of my literary mentors.'' The essays in this volume, three of which have never before appeared in English, trace the development of what Oz believes to be the core theme in Agnon's work, namely, the irrevocable collapse of the system of traditional Jewish belief and its disastrous implications for the men and women who have come to live in Israel, acting out of their belief in either Zionism or Judaism (or both). ``There is no way back,'' Oz solemnly intones early on, from the tormented contradictions that have made such a collapse inevitable. Following a general introductory essay, originally delivered as a speech in honor of the older author, Oz offers essays on ``Tehilah,'' one of Agnon's most poignant stories, and on the novels A Simple Story and Only Yesterday (whose first English-language translation is being published simultaneously with this volume). Oz writes with a simplicity, clarity, and passion that are all too often missing from academic literary criticism these days. Unfortunately, as the author himself acknowledges, these essays are meant to be read in tandem with the works they analyze and, for those unfamiliar with the Agnon oeuvre, they will often be baffling, even infuriatingly so. Like her work on Only Yesterday (see p.316), Harshav's translation is exemplary. A highly intelligent book, but one destined for Oz complete-ists and Agnon scholars. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


"A thought-provoking set of essays. . . . Oz . . . perceives Agnon as profoundly, indelibly traumatized by the historical catastrophe of East European Jewry which he foresaw. Oz points that Agnon's male heroes [are] full of guilt, saddled by sins they cannot fathom, reflect the incurable, insoluble pain suffered by Agnon's generation."--Susan Miron, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Amoz Oz has read Agnon closely and has many intelligent observations to make, extrapolating the mysteries of fiction."--David Pryce-Jones, The Spectator

"[An] impassioned and closely argued tribute. . . .Oz cherishes Agnon as a radical modernist and teases out dark subtexts, even from his most traditional looking works."--Morris Dickstein, Times Literary Supplement

"Amos Oz, a fine Hebrew novelist in his own right, writes well about Agnon. The Silence of Heaven [has] grown out of years of teaching Agnon's works. . ."--Hillel Halkin, The New Republic


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691036926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691036922
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,328,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on January 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is at least on part based on public lectures given by Oz at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Oz is a tremendously powerful and beautiful speaker and reader of Hebrew. These lectures sounded not so much like academic criticism but as a kind of long prose-poem. I do not know Agnon's work well- enough to argue with the reading Oz makes of it. Agnon was a religious Jew who was deep inside the Tradition as is evidenced in some of the anthology work he did especially ' Days of Awe' . Oz has gone somewhere else, and does not have Agnon's midrashic and talmudic background. Yet the thesis that Oz proposes in regard to the contradiction between the ideals of the religious and Zionist return to the land, and the reality which was met and made in the Yishuv is a very real one. It is also true that Agnon's work is a chronicle of the collapse of Eastern Jewry written before the great destruction comes. Oz knows the Agnon text well, and his power as writer makes it seems as if his reading of Agnon is the most convincing one. I think however it should be balanced against the reading of other commentators including Baruch Kurzweil, Arnold Band, Hillel Weiss and a host of others.

However reading this work of Oz will give not only knowledge of two of the Hebrew language's greatest writers in modern times ( Agnon and Oz) it will illuminate the whole ideological dimension of the Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael.
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