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Two Tales Paperback – October 1, 2014
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A blending of memory, illusion and reality… [In Two Tales Mr. Agnon's] themes and approaches to literature show a remarkable affinity with those of other modern writers. Like Joyce, he makes his co-religionists a paradigm for the state of 20th century man; like Eliot, he affirms a literary tradition from which he draws language, symbols and images in profusion; and, like Kafka, he senses the problems of the individual trapped in the maze of a complex world. --The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
Library of World Fiction
1966 cloth, 1986 paperback, Schocken Books
Wisconsin edition not for sale in the traditional British Commonwealth, South Africa, and Ireland; it is for sale in Canada. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Edo and Enam is about the clash between European and Asian/African Jewish cultures in Jerusalem, told in a Mishnaic style with elements of magic. The narrator, checking his friends' apartment while they are away, meets his bookseller, now married to a sleepwalking woman from a strange eastern tribe, and an ethnologist who seems to have stolen her love with the aid of some magic leaves. Betrothed is the story of Jacob Rechnitz, an Austrian-born teacher and biologist who lives in Haifa after the first World War. Loved by six different women, he remains faithful to his childhood sweetheart, who falls ill after their marriage. Here the magical element in an otherwise normal novella is a footrace proposed by his six woman friends, the winner to marry him after his wife dies. Both books are permeated by an aura of foreboding that makes it hard to keep reading. One funny element is Agnon's "history" of the Griefenbach house in Edo and Enam. Loaded with characters and things whose names all begin with G, it is almost a tongue twister.
Betrothed & Edo and Enam
By Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (July 17, 1888 – February 17, 1970) is considered one of Israel’s greatest writers. Agnon shared the Nobel Prize with the poet Nelly Sachs in 1966. Some of his works deal with the conflict between the traditional Orthodox Jewish life and life and behavior in the modern world.
Many of his stories are told by a narrator, and he is credited for contributing to the broadening the characteristic conception of the narrator role in literature. Many are written in the magical realism style of another Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Magic realism a literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy. An example would be where an author tells realistically about a man beginning to cross a bridge, but when he gets about half way across, he begins to rise in the air and float the rest of the way. The style is entertaining, thought provoking, and it prompts readers to form their own interpretation of the tale, as parables do.
Betrothed is about a man and a woman who as children promised to marry each other as they stood at the edge of a Viennese garden pool, as the biblical Jacob and Rachel stood by water in Genesis 29 and as kings were crowned by water, as in I Kings 1. The story focuses on what transpires to the couple when they fail to marry as they swore to do and their reunion after the passing of many years. As with many other Agnon stories, this one can be read literally, what is said in the tale is what happens. It can also be read as a rich allegory, as scholars insist it be read and enjoyed.
Similarly, some scholars insist that Edo and Enam can only be read as an allegory; otherwise it is enigmatic and inexplicable. But the scholar Arnold Band inveighed against focusing on the complexity of the tale “which detracts the reader and critic from the aesthetic charm of the story.” The tale is set in Jerusalem in the final years of the British Mandate. A couple, husband and wife, are house sitting, while in an adjacent room sits a scholar, a recluse, a mysterious man, who is studying an ancient culture. The wife is from a faraway land. She has a strange sleep walking disease and seems to walk toward the scholar.
Both stories are erotic, and both are superb on many levels.
Agnon is a writer whose grasp of Jewish religious literature is great, and who contains within his language Biblical, Mishnaic, Midrashic, hints and signs. While all of this does not translate to English Walter Lever does succeed in his translation in capturing the fundamental atmosphere and tone of Agnon's work.
There are so many beautiful and wise passages in this work that it is difficult to choose one to give as sample of the work's feeling.
But I choose one in which Rechnitz is described concentrating on his scientific work as a way of dealing with the debilitating illness which has cut off his fiancee from him, and taken from him the reward of his faithfulness.
" Meanwhile, Rechnitz turned back to his work. He was busy at his microscope, and happy, for sometimes small things give us great happiness, especially when they link together into something large. The humble sea plants with their tints of green, red, brown, and blue, which have neither taste nor scent, and are without any counterpart on land, were dearer to Rechnitz than all the trees, bushes and shrubs of the earth. Out of the strength of his love, and his capacity to take unqualified delight in the smallest of things, his own soul grew and perfected itself ever more. And with this wholeness of spirit came tranquility. Once again he surveyed , examined and tested , with an undistracted love, objects which he had set aside for many days, perhaps since the day when Susan Ehrlich came to Jaffa. How many days and weeks had these sea plants lain, floating in salt water within their olbong trays of clear glass,exuding their salt water like tears! But now that Rechnitz had returned and wiped their tears away, they looked up at him so lovingly that in their presence h forgot any other concern."
A truly beautiful work.