As a freshman at Columbia in 1966, I wrote a paper in Hebrew on Agnon's nov-ella Bilva yamim (In the heart of the seas) and transformed it into an English article a year later for the inaugural issue of the student journal Response. In preparation for the present essay, I reread Bilva yamim for the first time since my student days and compared my responses to the text now, from my position as a professionalized critic and teacher of Hebrew literature, with my responses as a student. My present reading of the novella stresses its place in the formation of Agnon's literary career, fictional techniques that anticipate magic realism, variations on voyage and travel literature, the centrality of Zion in the Agnon canon, and the workings of irony and playfulness. My reading of the story as a student was innocent of most of these observations and stressed instead the role of the creative individual in the narrative as a reflection of the founding spirit of the student journal Response. The essay reflects on the differences between the two readings and the possibility of some commonality between them.


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pp. 57-70
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