||Illustrated historical fiction by the noted Hebrew writer Asher Barash. The text is accompanied by full page black and white illustrations of the Jewish condition in Toledo, one showing a person being broken on the rack.
Asher Barash (1889–1952) was Born in Lopatin, Eastern Galicia. At an early age he was already well acquainted with modern Hebrew literature; however, most of his juvenilia was written in Yiddish, the rest in German and Polish. At the age of 16, Barash left home and wandered all over Galicia, returning from time to time to Lvov. This period is reflected in several of his more important works: Pirkei Rudorfer ("Rudorfer's Episodes," 1920–27), Sippurei Rudorfer ("Rudorfer's Stories," 1936–44), and other autobiographical stories. At that time, Barash began to publish his literary efforts, first in Yiddish and then in Hebrew, the latter in 1910 with a number of Hebrew poems in the second Me'assef Sifruti, edited by David Frischmann, and in Shallekhet, edited by Gershon Shofman. His first long story, "Min ha-Migrash" (1910), also appeared in Shallekhet. In 1914, Barash moved to Erez Israel, where he taught, first at the Herzlia secondary school in Tel Aviv and, after World War I, at the Reali high school in Haifa. This period is described in his work Ke-Ir Nezurah ("As a Besieged City," 1944).
After World War II he composed his best works in poetry and prose, wrote criticism, and edited several works. In conjunction with Ya'akov Rabinowitz, he edited the prose volumes Hedim, the Mizpeh Almanac, and Atidot, a youth journal. He was also active in the organizational work of the Association of Hebrew Writers, and established the bio-bibliographical institute, Genazim, which now bears his name. Barash's works were collected in three volumes (Kol Kitvei Asher Barash, 19612). In 1931, he wrote Torat ha-Sifrut ("Theory of Literature," in two volumes) which was the first attempt in modern Hebrew literature to present the Hebrew reader with a systematic theory of literature.
It is, however, as an author of fiction that Barash left his impact. His works mainly highlight the world he left behind. His description, often touched by nostalgia, is at the same time indicative of the author's awareness that this world must inevitably disintegrate. Barash was also aware of the new life evolving in Erez Israel, and this consciousness he conveyed in three works, Ke-Ir Nezurah, Ish u-Veito Nimhu ("The Man and His Home Perished," 1933–34), and Gannanim ("Gardeners," 1937–38). Among his historical fiction are two stories, "Mul Sha'ar ha-Shamayim" ("Facing the Gates of Heaven," 1924) and "Ha-Nishar be-Toledo" (1944).
Barash's literary works are characterized by a rather personal style, precise language, and a quiet tone tending to simplicity and clear and unsentimental description. He rejected both the traditional style of the school of Mendele Mokher Seforim and the extreme impressionistic and psychological style of some modernists. These stylistic qualities rapidly won him the title of a cool realist, uninvolved in the world he creates.
Barash's affection for the "good people," who are mostly marginal characters in his stories, was interpreted as an "objective" description of the more pleasant aspects of life. This simplistic and superficial approach to his works, however, ignores the cracks in his seemingly tranquil world through which can be glimpsed the hidden abyss that he keenly sensed. In his essay on Barash (in Arai va-Keva (1942), 147–58) Halkin dwells on this hidden but basic aspect in Barash's writing. He points to the strange but consistent contrast between the seemingly realistic tranquility and the knowledge (which Barash may have tried to conceal from himself) that this pleasant existence is but a thin shell protecting the individual from the chaos which threatens to erupt at any moment and engulf him or her. In 1969, Selected Stories of Asher Barash appeared.