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Reading Agnon Through Agnon READING AGNON THROUGH AGNON: CREATING THE LEGEND OF THE INSPIRED GENESIS OF FICTION by Stephen Katz Stephen Katz is Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Language and literature in the Department ofNear Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, Bloomington. He is also a member of the university's Jewish Studies Program and the Middle Eastern Studies Program. He is currently completing a study on the evolving fiction ofS. Y. Agnon. --------------27 Visitors dropping in at the Agnon House in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood seem to seek that measure of experience which would concretize for them what the nation's greatest author was like. Shown its interior; they try to imagine what the ground floor must have looked like when many rooms filled the space now occupied by a single large public space. Screening a video documentaryfeaturing the great author commenting on his work and life and guiding the viewer to his library, the audience becomes accustomed to the cadences and peculiar intonations ofAgnon's voice. Undoubtedly, the high point of each visit is the guided tour of Agnon's work-room and library, still intact and containing some ten thousand volumes, occupying three rooms upstairs, where the author spent much of his life composing some of the greatest works of Hebrew literature. Many of the newer books bear autographed dedications to Agnon by authors great and less so while dark and ancient volumes still hold slips of paper, book-marks, left there by Agnon.1 'For samples ofauthors' dedications to Agnon in books sent to him, see Tzvi Kaspi, "Mar Shai 'Agnon hayakar" [Dear Mr. S. Y. Agnon], Ha'aretz (March 5, 1993), p. 6. For sample dedications of books by Agnon to others, see Yol:Ianan Arnon, U'Agnon behakedashotav (bimelot shalosh shanim liftirato)" [Agnon's dedications: Three years following his death], 28 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 Left to the eye is a view of the author's work-room, its walls lined with bookshelves rising to the ceiling. In the center, by the south-facing window, stands his desk. Often missed is a glance into a small wooden box on that desk, one containing white slips of paper which were used as the author's book-marks and notes to himself and others. In the summer of 1986, the topmost slip in that box bore a pencilled note in the author's unique hand which read, in Hebrew, "Bakhlam=Klausner." Readers of Agnon's writings will easily recognize this as a reference to a character in his novel Sbira2 in which Professor Bakhlam appears to have been fashiuned after Professor Joseph Klausner, the celebrated scholar of Hebrew literature and Jewish history, who was also a neighbor of the Agnons.3 The candor contained in that slip of paper, ~nd the way it represents Agnon's process of creation of a figure in a novel, are largely unavailable to the contemporary student bent on investigating this author's writing habits. While much ofAgnon's archive is accessible for such perusals, it too Yedi'ot 'a1;Jronot (February 23, 1973). Regarding the mutual admiration and reciprocal dedications carried on byAgnon and Bialik, see Hiam Be'er, Gam 'ahavatam gam sin'atam: Bialik, Brenner, Agnon ma'arekhot-ye1;Jasim [Their love and their hate: H. N. Bialik, Y. H. Brenner, S. Y. Agnon-relations) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1992), pp. 197, 200, 288, 293, 298, and more. I wish to acknowledge and thank the assistance given me at the Agnon Archives, situated at the]ewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University ofJerusalem, and by its director, Mr. Raphael Weiser. The availability of the archival resources and the readiness with which Mr. Weiser and his able staff stood to be of help in all matters, have made a significant part of the following observations possible. 2S. Y. Agnon, Shira Oerusalem and Tel Aviv: Schocken, 1971 and 1979); English version, Shira, trans. Zeva Shapiro (New York: Schocken Books, 1989). ~Agnon lived on 16 Klausner Street, the name bearing tribute to the famous scholar whose home stood near the Agnon house, facing it across the street. Corroborating the identity of Professor Klausner with Bakhlam is G...


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