A new volume of Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon’s political satires, this volume contains:
1. A first-time translation of “Young and Old Together” (originally published in 1920), his longest satire, and his first substantial literary treatment of his Galician youth. The object of the satire is something Agnon knew very well first-hand: the young Zionists of his native hometown. In the course of detailing Jewish life and society as it was, the author gives us his satirized depiction of an array of personalities, personality types, institutions, and issues of the day. Among the objects of his humor are the pompous windbags who pass as Zionist leaders, and the cowardice behind their words; the internecine fighting about the purposes of Zionism (whether to ameliorate Jewish suffering in Europe or to build a new Jewish settlement in Palestine); literary figures with inflated egos; the Yiddish vs. Hebrew language wars; arrogance, ignorance, and hypocrisy of rabbis, hasids, and maskilim alike; and the perennial penchant for Jews to act as their own worst enemies despite the external threats of anti-Semitism.
2. “Chapters from The Book of State” – a collection of four short satires, appearing in new or revised translations, written between 1939 and 1950. These are Agnon’s Switftian satires, portraying the Jewish society in its soon to be established State as Hebrew-speaking Lilliputians.
3. “Introduction to the Kaddish” caps the satires with a profoundly serious, short, liturgical piece. Composed in 1947, as the tally of the Six Million was still being undertaken, and the human sacrifices in defense of the fledgling Jewish homeland were growing day by day, this piece (still recited across Israel on Memorial Day), follows an old tradition of following up farce and satire by plainly stating the serious themes that the comedic works were aiming to skewer.
This new collection from the Toby Press is accompanied by illustrated annotations and a new foreword by series editor Jeffrey Saks.