chapter
‘Aggadah and Childhood Imagination in the Works of Mendele, Bialik and Agnon
WithDavid Aberbach
Pages 9

The creative use of ‘aggadah in descriptions of childhood is an outstanding and unprecedented feature of the works of the three most prominent Hebrew writers of the period 1881-1948: Mendele Mokher Sefarim (S. J. Abramowitz, 1835?-1917), Hayyim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934) and Samuel Joseph Agnon (1888?-1970). In particular, their biographical or semi-biographical works—Mendele’s Ba-yamim ha-hem (Of Bygone Days, 1899, 1912-13, 1917 [Yiddish], 1903-17 [Hebrew]), Bialik’s Safiah (Aftergrowth, 1903-23), and Agnon’s story Ha-mitpahat (The Kerchief, 1932) show exceptional sensitivity and insight in depicting the effect of ‘aggadah on the child’s inner world. 1 These works include some of their finest prose, and they clearly recognized the importance of ‘aggadah in the growth of their literary imagination, using it to explore both the collective Jewish consciousness as well as private obsessions which lie at the root of their creative drive.