Old Agnon

During the past year I have been writing a psychoanalytic biography of S. Y. Agnon (1887-1970), one of the two laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1966, a unique Hebrew writer who has fascinated me since my youth.

Agnon’s subtle irony, his vast knowledge of Jewish sources, the Kafkaesque style of his nightmarish stories during the 1930s, his narcissistic and grandiose fantasy of himself as the Jewish messiah, his “false self” in misrepresenting to the world the year and date of his birth, his lifelong sadomasochistic relationship with his wife Esther, who was his mother’s namesake, all had very deep personal roots, going back to his fusional relationship with his ailing and domineering mother, and his guilt feelings over having abandoned her shortly before she died, as well as his ambivalent identification with his relatively weaker father. He emerges as an incredibly gifted but deeply ambivalent and vulnerable individual.

From 1933 to 1943 Agnon’s wife Esther was in psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud’s disciple Max Eitingon (see whose Hebrew middle name of Mordechai was the same as that of Agnon’s father. This unconsciously recreated the triangular oedipal relationship of his childhood and had a deep effect on Agnon and his stories.

Thanks to the Internet and e-mail I  have been able to do considerable research on Agnon’s years outside Palestine.

This is the first and only book of its kind about Agnon.




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