The Matchless Master of Modern Hebrew Literature

In his fiction, and especially in the novel Only Yesterday, S.Y. Agnon casts an ironic, unfooled eye on the inner lives of his fellow Jews and their lopsided bargains with modernity.

Shmuel Yosef Agnon circa 1966, when he won the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature. Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Shmuel Yosef Agnon circa 1966, when he won the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature. Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Essay
Dec. 3 2018
About the author

Hillel Halkin’s books include Yehuda HaleviAcross the Sabbath RiverMelisande: What are Dreams? (a novel), Jabotinsky: A Life (2014), and, most recently, After One-Hundred-and-Twenty (Princeton). 


This is the tenth and final essay in a series by Hillel Halkin on seminal Hebrew writers of the 19th and early-20th centuries. The preceding nine essays have dealt with the novelists Joseph PerlAvraham MapuPeretz Smolenskin, and Yosef Ḥayyim Brenner, the poets Yehudah Leib GordonḤayyim Naḥman Bialik, and Raḥél Bluvshtayn, the essayists and Zionist thinkers Ahad Ha’am and A.D. Gordon, and the writer, journalist, and intellectual Micha Yosef Berdichevsky.

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More about: Arts & Culture, History & Ideas, Modern Hebrew literature, Proto-Zionist Writers, S. Y. Agnon