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126 SHOFAR in its original language, is like making love through a blanket. Adopting this metaphor, one may cogently argue that reading Agnon's literary work in translation, "disarmed" of its singular, unique Hebrew with its ancient, Mishnaic flavor, is like making love through a wall. However, in this case Zeva Shapiro's translation is a laudable attempt to enable Shira's English reader to appreciate Agnon's verbal genius despite the "immigration" of the novel from its original language into a "verbal exile." Professor Robert Alter's afterword is the right scholarly homage to a master like Agnon, to a novel like Shira. "Shira," in Hebrew, is not just a female name. It means poetry. Poetry is not only a literary genre; it may also mean a sublime piece of literature of any genre. Shira is not only a novel. Shira is also poetry, a sublime piece of poetry which narrates the old, still always new agonized union in which love meets pain. Yair Mazor University of Texas-Austin His Daughter, by Yoram Kaniuk, translated by Seymour Simckes. New York: George Braziller, 1989. 293 pp. $17.50. Yoram Kaniuk's novel, His Daughter, is a breathless and claustrophobic quasi-detective novel, which continues the steady demolition of the Israeli super-hero that Hebrew novelists have been performing for a long time. Just as modern Hebrew literature has produced a variety of didactic, heroic models of the "new Jew"-the Jewish man of the world, the pioneering hero, the military hero of the War of Independence-Hebrew writers since the second aliyah have diligently debunked the images of such heroism. In this book, Joseph Krieger fulfills our expectations of the "Israeli superhero ," but that only makes him vulnerable to deception and manipulation by just about everyone. Krieger is a caricature, the last intact hero of the Palmach generation: a square-jawed, loyal, naive, incorruptible soldier and family-man, whose self-righteous honesty prevents him from satisfying the demands of others. To crush Krieger's self-righteousness, Yoram Kaniuk musters a cast of co-conspirators, starting with his erratic European survivor wife, and including all the others who have been nearest and dearest to him throughout his life. Miriam, his neurotic, brilliant and allegedly captivating daughter, has disappeared and may have been murdered. The girl is morbid: since childhood she has been in love with a cowardly soldier under Krieger's command who was killed before she was born; she avenges his death and blames her father. Good soldier Krieger also has been betrayed frequently by his oldest Volume 9, No.1 Fall1990 127 army buddies, the Chief of Staff, and Reuben, a spymaster who was his wife's long-time lover. All these people blame him pitilessly for qualities of his character which earlier literature admired and the reader is still ready to pardon . Krieger's search for Miriam is the apparent action of the story, but the novel concentrates more on insulting and disillusioning him than on the quasi-mythical quest of the father for the missing daughter. The chapter-tochapter search for her through Israeli low life is too complicated to sustain interest, and his self-conscious narration is ultimately a nervous mannerism; we lose interest in what he says, because it neither registers the character's development nor illuminates larger patterns of thought and event. Krieger's vulnerability, against the background perversity of all the other characters, could make him appealing, if only he didn't talk so much and work so hard just to be glib. As a result, we feel no more pity for the beaten hero than for those statues of Lenin that are now being sold for scrap metal in Eastern Europe . Like characterization and plot, the style of the novel repels a reader's sympathy. It suits a detective story of a kind familiar from B-movies and television shows, in which there are lots of insults, shouts, and threats, at which no one ever flinches. Characters routinely sum up the meaning of their lives and the lives of others in one-liners which arouse but immediately dismiss interest in their thoughts and feelings. The monotonous malice of this world, which constantly...


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pp. 126-127
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