New Article: Wiseman, Eternal Peace, a Satire by S.Y. Agnon

Wiseman, Laura R. “Shelom ‘Olamim—Eternal Peace by S.Y. Agnon: Yishuv-Era Society on the Brink of Statehood .” Modern Judaism 36.2 (2016): 163-85.

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mj/kjw007

 

Extract

This 1942 satire is set in the period of Israel’s emergent statehood. Agnon delivers a critique of pre-statehood society and leadership at the nadir of drought, wrapped up in self-importance and internal rifts over inconsequential matters while the very existence of the people is threatened from without. While there is room for historical or theoretical examinations of such a story, this article adopts a literary approach for its methodology. It employs textual analysis to highlight a cluster of literary devices including a leitmotif, reverberations of classical Hebrew texts, and exaggerations. Together they animate the scathing satire in this period piece. To deploy the irony in Shelom ‘Olamim–“Eternal Peace” Agnon installs each rhetorical device and echo in an inverted or perceptibly flawed fashion, and magnifies minutiae to hyperbolic proportions. In so doing he crafts a game of nahafokh-hu a topsy-turvy puzzle, making his medium the message. The puzzle and its pieces carry the storyteller’s caustic criticism of the inverted priorities and unwarranted hubris of the leaders of yishuv-era society on the brink of statehood. In contributing a thesis based on textual analysis, an allegorical translation of the ambiguous Hebrew title, and fresh translations of selected excerpts, this article offers English-readers access to the humor and irony embedded in Agnon’s multivalent Hebrew writing and word play.

 

 

 

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