Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Montage and the German-Hebrew Dialogue: Agnon’s TO THIS DAY

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 1 Ballroom


This paper discusses the depiction of Berlin and the concept of montage in S.Y Agnon’s Ad henah (To This Day) alongside Walter Benjamin’s loosely autobiographical text Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert (Berlin Childhood around 1900). While scholars have widely explored Agnon’s relations to German culture, and the notion of longing in the novel, little attention has been devoted to the ways in which the author constructs German urban space. Benjamin’s concept of montage (generated by his interpretation of Brechtian theatre) highlights the centrality of fragmentation for the structure of the novel. Agnon’s deterritorialized language resists the construction of one main plot-line, and this work provides a montage of Jewish multiculturalism.
Reading these texts together offers diverse perspectives on Berlin and its literary qualities as a place of home and exile. Whereas Benjamin’s depiction is both nostalgic and materialistic, Agnon points to Berlin as part of the montage of the “Jewish town,” which includes Berlin, Leipzig, Grimma, the protagonist’s hometown in Eastern Europe, and his imagined home in Palestine. At the end of the novella, Agnon’s protagonist (like Agnon himself) returns to the Promised Land. Yet, it is through the deceased Mr. Levi’s library—not through the protagonist’s own merit—that he attains a room of his own. In reconstructing the notion of home and its relation to writing, both Agnon and Benjamin, I suggest, employ an epic, fragmented, style of writing. Through Benjamin’s notion of the montage, I read Agnon’s narration not as that of a chronicler, but as that of a collector of Jewish modernity. Highlighting the materiality of the everyday, of books, and even of language, To This Day demonstrates Agnon’s oscillation between Hebrew and German, Eastern Europe and Central Europe, Palestine and the diaspora.


©2019 All Academic, Inc.   |   Privacy Policy