On May 31, 2012 Agnon House
in Jerusalem will open the celebrations marking the 100th year anniversary of the publication of S.Y. Agnon's first book, And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight
[Ve-Haya Ha-Akov Le-Mishor
]. Agnon House, where writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon
(1887-1970) lived and wrote for 40 years, will commemorate this landmark in the history of modern Hebrew literature in the coming months with academic lectures, interactive study sessions, programs for students and pupils as well as activities for the whole family. Agnon House is open to the general public where visitors can learn more about the life and works of Agnon as well as visit his library of over 8000 books, some of which date back to the 16th century.
S.Y. Agnon in his library and the library at Agnon House today (Photos courtesy Agnon House)
Called "a man of unquestionable genius" and "one of the great storytellers of our time," S.Y. Agnon is among the most effusively-praised and widely-translated Hebrew authors and seen as the father of modern Hebrew literature. His unique style and language have influenced later generations of Hebrew authors.
Agnon is the first Hebrew writer, and to date the only Hebrew writer, to be recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature which was given to him "for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people." In fact, it is quite remarkable that Agnon was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature in Hebrew, given the fact that at the time that he started writing, Hebrew was still a language of prayers, hopes and dreams at the beginning of the 20th century as the State of Israel was yet to be created. In addition to the 1966 Nobel Prize for Literature, Agnon received numerous literary awards, including the Israel Prize on two occasions.
The writer is known for his short stories, novellas and novels, written in a variety of styles ranging from pious folk tales and gothic romances to psychological dramas. Agnon's fiction can be understood on many different levels. At first, the "simple" story can be read and understood at face value. However, if you examine Agnon's language, you will be quick to see that his prose is laden with biblical language and references which sheds a different and more complex light on the original text.
Agnon - Shmuel Yosef Czackes - was born to an affluent and urbane family where traditional Jewish culture dwelt side by side with modern European culture. He was educated at home by his father, a fur merchant, in religious studies and his mother read him German stories.
Agnon began to write in both Hebrew and Yiddish at the age of eight, and by the time he was 15, he began to publish. He left Buczacz in January 1908 for Jaffa, and never again wrote in Yiddish. In Jaffa, he surrounded himself by the intellectuals and writers of the 2nd Aliyah. In 1908, Agnon first used his pen-name which he took from his first story published in the land of Israel, Agunot (Forsaken Souls). Czackes became forgotten as Agnon officially became his family name in 1924.