Epilogue: Writing, Tradition, and Modernity in “Only for the Lord Alone” by S. Y. Agnon

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Abstract

The Epilogue illuminates some of the processes described in this monograph by analyzing their reflection in a literary work written by one of the greatest authors of modern Hebrew literature, S. Y. Agnon. It presents a reading of Agnon's short story Only for the Lord Alone, an adaptation of a Hasidic tale where writing and its sinfulness are major themes. The story throws light both on traditional Jewish society's attitude toward writing and on Agnon's own attitude toward it, as a writer torn between tradition and modernity. By tracing Agnon's fingerprints on the Hasidic story, we discover the double-bind facing the modern Jewish writer-artist when he turns his gaze backward, to the traditional world. The explicit moral of the Hasidic tale is that the story, every story, must be told solely for the sake of Heaven, and that the very act of putting a story into writing casts doubt on the purity of its author's intentions. Furthermore, the story's addressees, too, sin by extracting from its beauty pleasure for its own sake. Hence Agnon, who commits the Hasidic tale to paper in an unmistakably artistic fashion, is found subverting the overt message of the tale, and sinning by doing so.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Directions in Book History
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages329-343
Number of pages15
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameNew Directions in Book History
ISSN (Print)2634-6117
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6125

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