Born: Shmuel Yosef Halesi Czaczkes in Buczacz, Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Poland), 17 July 1888. Education: Educated at private schools; Baron Hirsch School. Family: Married Esther Marx in 1919; one daughter and one son. Career: Lived in Palestine, 1907-13: first secretary of Jewish Court in Jaffa, and secretary of the National Jewish Council; lecturer and tutor in Germany, 1913-24; in Palestine again from 1924. Fellow, Bar Ilan University. Awards: Bialik prize, 1934, 1954; Hakhnasat Kala, 1937; Ussishkin prize, 1950; Israel prize, 1954, 1958; Nobel prize for literature, 1966. D.H.L.: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1936; Ph.D.: Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1959. President, Mekitzei Nirdamim, 1950. Member: Hebrew Language Academy. Died: 17 February 1970.



VeHayah he’Akov leMishor. 1919.

Giv’at haChol [The Hill of Sand]. 1920.

Besod Yesharim [Among the Pious]. 1921.

MeChamat haMetsik [From the Wrath of the Oppressor]. 1921.

Al Kapot haMan’ul [Upon the Handles of the Lock]. 1922.

Polin [Poland]. 1925.

Ma’aseh rabi Gadi’el haTinok [The Tale of Little Reb Gadiel]. 1925.

Sipur haShanin haTovot. 1927.

Agadat haSofer [The Tale of the Scribe]. 1929.

Kol Sipurav [Collected Fiction]. 11 vols., 1931-52; revised edition (includes additional volume Al Kapot HaMan’ul), 8 vols., 1952-62. Hakhnasath Kallah. 2 vols., 1931; as The Bridal Canopy, translated by I.M. Lask, 1937. Me’Az ume’Atah [From Then and from Now]. 1931.

Sipurey Ahavim [Love Stories]. 1931.

Sipur Pashut. 1935; as A Simple Story, translated by Hillel Halkin, 1985.

BeShuva uveNachat [In Peace and Tranquillity]. 1935. Kovets sipurim. 1937.

Ore’ah Nata Lalun. 1939; as A Guest for the Night, translated by Misha Louvish, 1968.

Elu va’Elu [These and Those]. 1941.

Temol Shilshom [The Day Before Yesterday]. 1945; in part as Kelev Chutsot, 1950.

Samuch veNireh [Never and Apparent]. 1950. AdHeinah [Until Now]. 1952.

Bilvav Yamim. 1935; as In the Heart of the Seas, translated by I.M. Lask, 1948.

Sefer, Sofer veSipur [Book, Scribe, Tale]. 1938.

Shevu’at Emunim. 1943; as The Betrothed, translated by Walter Lever, in Two Tales, 1966.

Sipurim veAgadot. 1944. Tehilla (in English). 1956.

Two Tales: The Betrothed, Edo and Enam, translated by Walter Lever. 1966.

Selected Stories (in Hebrew), edited by Samuel Leiter. 1970. Twenty-One Stories, edited by Nahum N. Glatzer, various translators.1970; as Selection, 1977.

Shirah [Song]. 1971; as Shira, translated by Zeva Shapiro, 1989.

Pitchey Dvarim [Opening Remarks]. 1977.

A Dwelling Place of My People: Sixteen Stories of the Chassidim,translated by J. Weinberg and H. Russell. 1983. Takhrikh shel sipurim (stories), edited by Emunah Yaron. 1984. A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories, edited with introductions by Alan Mintz and Anne Golomb Hoffman, 1995


Me’Atsmi el Atsmi [From Me to Me]. 1976.

Esterlain yekirati: mikhatavim 684-691 (1924-1931) (letters). 1983.

Kurzweil, Agnon, Greenberg (letters), edited by L. Dabby-Goury.1987.

Sipure haBest. 1987.

Agnon’s Alef bet: Poems, translated by Robert Friend, 1998.

Editor, with Ahron Eliasberg, Das Buch von den polnischen Juden. 1916.

Editor, Yamim Nora’im. 1937; as Days of Awe, Being a Treasury of Traditions, Legends, and Learned Commentaries . . . , translated by I.M. Lask, 1948.

Editor, Atem re’item. 1959; as Present at Sinai: The Giving of the Law, translated by Michael Swirsky, 1994.

Editor, Sifrehem shel Tsadikim. 1961.

Critical Studies:

Nostalgia and Nightmare: A Study in the Fiction of S.Y. Agnon (includes bibliography) by Arnold J. Band, 1968; The Fiction of S.Y. Agnon by Baruch Hochman, 1970; A Study of the Evolution of S.Y. Agnon’s Style by Joseph Kaspi, 1972; Agnon by Harold Fisch, 1975; Shay Agnon’s World of Mystery and Allegory by Israel Rosenberg, 1978; At the Handles of the Lock: Themes in the Fiction of S.Y. Agnon by David Aberbach, 1984; Character and Context: Studies in the Fiction of Abramovilsh, Brenner and Agnon by Jeffrey Fleck, 1984; The Triple Cord: Agnon, Hamsun, Strindberg: Where Scandinavian and Hebrew Literature Meet by Yain Mazor, 1987; S.Y. Agnon: Texts and Contexts in English Translation edited by Leon I. Yudkin, 1988; S.Y. Agnon: A Revolutionary Traditionalist by Gershon Shaked, translated by Jeffrey M. Green, 1989; Between Exile and Return: S.Y. Agnon and the Drama of Writing by Anne G. Hoffman, 1991; Agnon’s Art of Indirection: Uncovering Latent Content in the Fiction of S.Y. Agnon by N. Ben-Dov, 1993; Tradition and Trauma: Studies in the Fiction of S.Y. Agnon edited by David Patterson and Glenda Abrahamson, 1994; Ghetto, Shtetl, or Polis?:The Jewish Community in the Writings of Karl Emil Franzos, Sholom Aleichem, and Shemuel Yosef Agnon by Miriam Roshwald, 1997; The Centrifugal Novel: S.Y. Agnon’s Poetics of Composition by Stephen Katz, 1999. Translating Israel: Contemporary Hebrew Literature and its Reception in America by Alan L. Mintz, 2001.

S.Y. Agnon was a man of two worlds: the world of his ancestors’ Judaic tradition and the realm of modernity. Some literary critics attempt to point to a harmony of the two, while others insist on the radical difference and inconsistency between them.

The province of tradition comprised the daily prayers and the celebration of the Sabbath, the lighting of the candles by the mother with its songs, hymns, special food, and parental blessings; the feasts such as the Passover, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt; Yom Kippur, the most holy Day of Atonement, a fast day and a season of forgiveness; the rabbi’s home, the synagogue, and the House of Study; the spirit of neighbourliness and mutual help; the occasions of birth, circumcision, marriage, and death. The learned men were honoured and the youth encouraged to emulate them. The language of everyday was Yiddish, a mixture of Hebrew, German, and Polish (or Russian), while Hebrew was reserved for prayer and the sacred texts; God was exalted for his majesty and goodness and the Messiah expected to redeem Israel and the world.

Agnon grew up in this world. Though the 19-year-old left his native Buczacz, Galicia, in 1907, the memories of the ”old home” were strong and vivid enough to sustain his creative imagination for years to come. He portrays this culture in the novel Hakhnasath Kallah (The Bridal Canopy) and the short story ”Agadat ha-Sofer” [The Tale of the Scribe]. Agnon was aware of the breakdown of this culture; thus a tragic element enters both the novels and the short stories: in ”The Tale of the Scribe” both the humble and saintly scribe and his pious, chaste wife, as well as the sacred scroll, perish in a conflagration.

Answering some critics’ contention that Agnon adheres to a style patterned after the Jewish folk-tale and the homiletic mode of the ancient Midrash, he wrote a series of pieces in a strictly modern, expressionistic form. Here the laws of cause and effect do not apply; for example, the narrator in one story attends a memorial service for an important person, and returning home he finds that person waiting for him. Agnon made it clear that he was not confined to any one style; moreover, he chose his particular mode because he believed it to be most readily and universally understood by the Hebrew reader. The stories are evidence that the writer was indeed a man of the Western world and that the problems of the Jewish people and those of the world at large meet and cross.

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