To This Day


On the surface, To This Day, is a comic tale of a young writer stranded in Berlin, but on a deeper level, it is a profound commentary on exile, Zionism, divine providence, and human egoism.
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On the surface, To This Day, is a comic tale of a young writer stranded in Berlin, but on a deeper level, it is a profound commentary on exile, Zionism, divine providence, and human egoism.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

First published in 1952, this subtly woven, comic tale by Nobel Prize-winner Agnon is set in Germany during World War I. A young scholar writing a book on the history of clothing has strayed from his Austrian, Orthodox Jewish roots, ending up in Berlin at the outbreak of war, searching for a quiet place to stay, but compelled to move restlessly from one room to another. A letter by the ailing widow of the renowned Dr. Levy prompts him to set out for Grimma, in the hope of becoming the executor for the doctor's vast Jewish library; however, he is waylaid in Leipzig by a former actress friend, Brigitta Schimmermann, now a fashionable wife who runs an important nursing hospital. Eventually abandoning his mission, he heads back to Berlin where he moves among boarding houses, befriending the various proprietors and their daughters, meeting war-damaged friends at nightclubs and observing in his detached manner the desperation and decadence of a society on the brink. Translator Halkin offers a masterly introduction to this deeply moralistic work that portrays the Jew in diaspora with neither country nor room, seeking God's plan in what might only be happenstance. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

In his final novel, first published in 1952, seminal Israeli author and Nobel laureate Agnon (1888-1970) tells the story of a young Jewish man who, after living in Palestine, finds himself stranded in Berlin during World War I. As he wanders from rented room to rented room trying to find a tenable living situation, he encounters old friends and young women, all with stories of their own. Though some characters face personal tragedies, Agnon slightly downplays the horrors of war in what is a less leaden take on wartime hardships than is usually seen. Translated for the first time into English with an extensive introduction by Halkin, this meditation on wartime exile is a fascinating culmination of the Agnon canon. His protagonist shares his name and occupation, and clearly more than a few other elements of the novel are autobiographical. Recommended for general fiction and Jewish studies collections.
—Alicia Korenman

Kirkus Reviews
The last of Agnon's six novels to be translated from Hebrew into English, this 1951 work describes the travails of a young Jew in Berlin during the Great War. Agnon (1888-1970) won the Nobel in 1966. The novel is partly autobiographical. The narrator has the same first name as the author (Shmuel Yosef) and an identical migratory background: from Galicia to Palestine to Berlin and back to Palestine. Shmuel is constantly on the move, from one boarding house to another; he can never find the right combination of landlady, room and furnishings. His search duplicates in miniature the search of Jews for a homeland. Simultaneously the war has thrown Shmuel off his game. He has been unable to work on his book, a history of clothing, since the war began. Instead he carries out an assignment to assess the library of the late Dr. Levi, as requested by the scholar's widow. This involves a train ride to a town outside of Leipzig. The trip proves futile; the house is locked and the widow is in the hospital. But Shmuel runs into an old friend, a former actress now operating a nursing home for war victims. One of her patients has been transformed into a golem, a zombie, by battlefield horrors. He attaches himself to Shmuel and thus is reunited with his mother, Shmuel's Berlin landlady, who had dreamt of this homecoming. Dreams, legends and anecdotes make up much of the story, which is buoyed by mordant humor and absurdist touches: Shmuel will return to Leipzig to transport the enormous hat of a visiting Christian professor, an "authority" on ancient Israel who knows no Hebrew. The contentiousness of German and Eastern European Jews is another theme, but it's the war that looms over everything, acharacter in its own right. In Halkin's beautifully fluid translation (he has also supplied a perceptive introduction), we see Agnon's piquant illustration of a disorientation that feels quite contemporary.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592642144
  • Publisher: Toby Press LLC, The
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 250

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