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The Renascence of Hebrew Literature (1743-1885)   By: (1872-1966)

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Translated from the French


The modern chapter in the history of Hebrew literature herewith presented to English readers was written by Dr. Nahum Slouschz as his thesis for the doctorate at the University of Paris, and published in book form in 1902. A few years later (1906 1907), the author himself put his Essay into Hebrew, and it was brought out as a publication of the Tushiyah , under the title Korot ha Safrut ha 'Ibrit ha Hadashah . The Hebrew is not, however, a mere translation of the French book. The material in the latter was revised and extended, and the presentation was considerably changed, in view of the different attitude toward the subject naturally taken by Hebrew readers, as compared with a Western public, Jewish or non Jewish.

The present English translation, which has had the benefit of the author's revision, purports to be a rendition from the French. But the Hebrew recasting of the book has been consulted at almost every point, and the Hebrew works quoted by Dr. Slouschz were resorted to directly, though, as far as seemed practicable, the translator paid regard to the author's conception and Occidentalization of the Hebrew passages revealed in his translation of them into French.




CHAPTER I In Italy Moses Hayyim Luzzatto

CHAPTER II In Germany The Meassefim

CHAPTER III In Poland and Austria The Galician School

CHAPTER IV In Lithuania Humanism in Russia

CHAPTER V The Romantic Movement Abraham Mapu

CHAPTER VI The Emancipation Movement The Realists

CHAPTER VII The Conflict with Rabbinism Judah Leon Gordon

CHAPTER VIII Reformers and Conservatives The Two Extremes

CHAPTER IX The National Progressive Movement Perez Smolenskin

CHAPTER X The Contributors to Ha Shahar

CHAPTER XI The Novels of Smolenskin

CHAPTER XII Contemporaneous Literature




It was long believed that Hebrew had no place among the modern languages as a literary vehicle. The circumstance that the Jews of Western countries had given up the use of their national language outside of the synagogue was not calculated to discredit the belief. The Hebrew, it was generally held, had once been alive, but now it belonged among the dead languages, in the same sense as the Greek and the Latin. And when from time to time some new work in Hebrew, or even a periodical publication, reached a library, the cataloguer classified it with theologic and Rabbinic treatises, without taking the trouble to obtain information as to the subject of the book or the purpose of the journal. In point of fact, in the large majority of cases they were far enough removed from Rabbinic controversy.

Sometimes it happened that one or another Hebraist was overcome with astonishment at the sight of a Hebrew translation of a modern author. And he stopped at that. He never went so far as to enable himself to pass judgment upon it from the critical or the literary point of view. To what purpose? he would ask himself. Hebrew has been dead these many centuries, and to use it is an anachronism. He considered it only a curiosity of literature, literary sleight of hand, nothing more.

The bare possibility of the existence of a modern literature in Hebrew seemed so strange, so improbable, that the best informed circles refused to entertain the notion seriously perhaps not without some semblance of a reason for their incredulity.

The history of the development of modern Hebrew literature, its character, the extraordinary conditions fostering it, its very existence, are of a sort to surprise one who has not kept in touch with the internal struggles, the intellectual currents that have agitated the Judaism of Eastern Europe in the course of the past century.

So far from deserving a reputation for casuistry, modern Hebrew literature is, if anything, distinctly rationalistic in character... Continue reading book >>

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