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ZIPORA KAGAN Homo Anthologicus: Micha Joseph Berdyczewski and the Anthological Genre "To be both source and progeny" Berdyczewski NO HGURE IN MODERN HEBREW LITERATURE has been more closely identified with the anthological enterprise than Micha Joseph Berdyczewski, later known as Bin-Gorion (1865-1921). In the course of his life, Berdyczewski, in addition to being a writer of fiction, a folklorist, essayist, critic, and scholar, compiled five multivolume anthologies, and seems to have discovered in the anthological form a fitting embodiment of what he considered the nature of modem Jewish existence. Indeed, so central and fundamental a role did the compilation of anthologies play in his life that it would be no exaggeration to call Berdyczewski homo anthologicus. Micha Joseph Berdyczewski was born on 27 July 1865 in the village of Medzibezh in Podolia, a district in the Ukraine (Little Russia). Most of his childhood and youth were spent in Dubova, where his father served as the community's rabbi. His mother died when he was eleven, and this traumatic experience shadowed Berdyczewski all his life, serving as the subject of several ofhis stories. In 1882, at the age of seventeen, the young Hluy (prodigy) married a rich man's daughter, but after he was discovered reading maskilic texts, his father-in-law forced him to divorce his wife (whom Berdyczewski had grown to love). The trauma of this episode was PROOFTEXTS 19 (1999): 41-57 C 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University Press 42ZIPORA KAGAN later given poignant aesthetic expression in his story "Me'ever lanahar" (Across the river, 1899). In 1882, Berdyczewski entered the Volozhin yeshiva. In that same year, he published his first article, "Toldot yeshivat ets hayyim."1 In 1888, he married for a second time, only to be divorced within a year. In 1890, he visited Odessa, where he became acquainted with the most important Hebrew writers. At the end of the year, he left Poland, first for Germany, where he enrolled in Breslau University, and later for Switzerland, where, in 1896, he received a doctorate in philosophy from Berne University for a dissertation entitled Über den Zusammenhand zwischen Ethik und Aesthetik (On the connection between ethics and aesthetics).2 In 1902, he married Rachel Ramburg, who also became his main literary collaborator. They lived in Breslau until 1911, then moved to Berlin, where they lived for the next ten years. Berdyczewski died on 18 November 1921. Throughout these years, Berdyczewski devoted considerable energy to various anthological projects, most of them collections of aggadah. For him, the anthological activity was not only the mere assembling of a collection, but the making of a literary genre with both historical and philosophical dimensions that represents the unique structure of Jewish existence: "This work of mine is objective toladatic poetics," he wrote on 1 October 1904 to A. L. Ben-Avigdor, to whom he sent the manuscript of Hayyei moshe (The life of Moses), which itself belongs to the anthological genre. By toladatic—an adjectival form I have invented for the purposes of this article, derived from the Hebrew toladati, the term Berdyczewski himself used—Berdyczewski meant a historically dynamic rather than static memory, namely, the summation of all deeds, desires, feelings, and visions that had accumulated over generations in the life of the Jewish people, a nation that Berdyczewski called a toladatic folk. It is clear why literature without such a "toladatic mark" was disqualified from his purview, since "true and whole recognition of ourselves and the quality of ourselves deepens on the knowledge of our tolada" (Berdyczewski, 1914). Tolada is a major category and term in all aspects of Berdyczewski's writing—from philosophy and literature, to criticism and scholarship.3 Between 1903 and 1905, Berdyczewski was occupied in preparing two anthologies: a compilation called Matam (Mishnah, Talmud, midrash) and a collection of hasidic texts entitled Liqutei reshit hahasidut (Extracts from the origins of Hasidism). The latter project was never completed, though parts of it survive in manuscript form in the Berdyczewski archive.4 In any case, Berdyczewski's preoccupation with anthology making is evident in the entries he made during this period—especially from July to November 1905—in his private diary (Chronik),5 which...


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