Simple Story

Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Author Schocken Books Inc $14.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-8052-3999-7
The appearance in translation of a novel by a Nobel Laureate is cause for rejoicing, even when it sits less comfortably in English than in the original Hebrew. A story of a marriage, it takes place in Szybusz, a fictional town in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Blume Nacht, after her mother's death, becomes a servant in the house of cousins, whose son Hirshl falls in love with her. Blume, beautiful and almost superhumanly capable, repudiates Hirshl, a bit of a simpleton. He, when pressed by his substantial parents, slips bewilderedly into marriage with Mina, a heavily cologned boarding-school graduate. Blume meanwhile moves to another household and is rarely seen again, leaving the reader's expectations unfulfilled. Hirshl's too, for she is ever-present in his heart, stunting his sexual relationship with Mina and driving him from melancholy to madness. That he recovers, returns to his wife, and begins to find in what had been an emptyheaded, passive girl robust sensuality and social understanding, seems to reflect his emerging maturity and acceptance of the bourgeois solidity represented by his parents and the town itself. Agnon's achievement is to have combined gentle mockery of the myriad characters he brings so engagingly to life with staunch championing of values and customs that were soon to be doomed. His scholarship and literary astuteness inform a story that is at once rich in biblical allusion and redolent of the society in which he was raised. December
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
Genre: Fiction
Discover what to read next