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