Old Agnon

During the past few years I have been writing a psychoanalytic biography of the Hebrew writer S. Y. Agnon (1887-1970), one of the two laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1966. Agnon was a unique writer who has fascinated me since my youth, as he has dozens of literary and other scholars. The book will be published in early 2018.

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 sado-masochistic 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 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 profound 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 and on his visits to Sweden which culminated in the 1966 Nobel Prize.

This is the first and only book of its kind about Agnon. Here is the list of my references and additional bibliography Agnons-Story-References 2017-07-23




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