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Ayit Zavu’a; Hozei Hezyonot
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Abraham ben Jekuthiel Mapu
This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Two works in one thick volume, octavo 172:105 mm., light age staining. A very good copy loose in later boards, spine taped.
Very popular and much reprinted novel by Abraham ben Jekuthiel Mapu, considered the creator of the modern Hebrew novel. Ayit Zavu’a (The Hypocrite) was written to avenge the insult of his employer, who physically assaulted him. In Ayit Zavu’a Mapu models the character of the boorish upstart, Ga’al, on his former employer. Published at a time when a more liberal spirit prevailed in Russia during the early reign of Alexander II, Mapu was prompted to choose a contemporary setting for this, his second novel. About ten editions show its popularity. Aspects of Ayit Ẓavu'a portray contemporary Jewish life, mainly in his native Lithuania. Ayit Ẓavu'a, with its emphasis on social and educational reform, exerted the most influence of Mapu’s works on subsequent Hebrew writers. The realistic elements of Mapu's social novel may be traced in the words of many writers, including P. Smolenskin , J.L. Gordon , R.A. Braudes , M.D. Brandstaedter , and S.J. Abramovitsh (Mendele Mokher Sforim), all of whom furthered the positivist and social aspects of his work. Bound with Ayit Ẓavu'a is Hozei Hezyonot, depicting the period of the pseudo-Messiah, Shabbetai Ẓevi. Reputed to have been in ten complete parts, the work was sent to the censor in 1858, together with the first two parts of Ayit Ẓavu'a. Whereas the publication of the latter was subject only to irritating delays, the campaign of the fanatical opponents of Haskalah persuaded the censor to forbid publication of Hozei Hezyonot altogether. The manuscript disappeared, and only a seven-chapter fragment remains. Mapu never completely recovered from this loss. Abraham ben Jekuthiel Mapu (1808–1867) was one of the principal exponents of the Haskalah movement in Eastern Europe, he is best known for his first and most successful novel Ahavat Ẓiyyon ("The Love of Zion," Vilna, 1853), which represents a turning point in the development of modern Hebrew literature. The son of an indigent and scholarly teacher, Mapu was born in Slobodka, a poverty-stricken suburb of Kovno, where he early acquired a reputation as a brilliant student, and, having mastered much of the talmudic learning of the day, he was considered fit for independent study at the age of 12. Following his marriage at 17, Mapu continued his studies in the home of his wealthy father-in-law in Kovno. After a brief flirtation with Hasidism, he resumed an interest in Kabbalah and mysticism, previously fostered by his father. This occasioned a period of close contact with R. Elijah Ragoler . The chance finding of a copy of the Psalms with a Latin translation in R. Ragoler's home aroused his interest and he taught himself Latin, virtually an unknown study among pious Jews in Eastern Europe. Eventually he acquired a fair proficiency in French, German, and Russian, in spite of the prevailing hostility in Orthodox Jewish circles to the learning of languages. These studies plus an interest in such equally neglected subjects as Bible, Hebrew grammar, and modern literature laid the foundations of his subsequent achievements. Throughout his life Mapu struggled to maintain his family. He became a teacher of young children and was invited in 1832 to tutor the children of a wealthy merchant in the nearby town of Georgenberg. While separated from his family for two or three years, he was drawn to the Haskalah movement, and, on his return to Kovno, he began to disseminate its doctrines among the local youth. In 1837 Mapu moved his family to Rossyieny, where he taught for about seven years. In spite of his economic hardship, Mapu found the cultural atmosphere of Rossyieny attractive. There his friendship with Senior Sachs engendered a profound interest in the history of ancient Israel. In an attempt to improve his finances Mapu returned to Kovno in 1844. His wife died in 1846, and the following year he moved to Vilna to tutor the son of the wealthy but unlettered Judah Opatov. Despite Vilna's reputation as a great center of Haskalah, Mapu found the city no more congenial than the house of his harsh employer. On learning of Mapu's appointment to teach at a government school in Kovno in 1848, Opatov assaulted him physically. Mapu, deeply humiliated, fled the house. He avenged the insult by modeling the character of the boorish upstart, Ga'al, in his novel Ayit Ẓavu'a ("The Hypocrite") on his former employer. From the Hebrew writers of Vilna, however, Mapu acquired the taste for Romanticism which permeates his novels. As the new post proved permanent, Mapu settled in Kovno and remarried in 1851. For about ten years domestic happiness and improved financial circumstances coincided with his most fruitful literary period. His growing reputation was enhanced in 1857 by the personal congratulations of the Russian minister of public institutions, Norov, a singular honor which induced Mapu to include a poem in Norov's honor in the introduction to his lost novel Ḥozei Ḥezyonot ("The Visionaries"). But from 1860 his health began to fail beneath the burdens of overwork and persecution by the pious opponents of Haskalah who managed to influence the censors to delay or even forbid his publications. His meager resources were further undermined by his second wife's long illness, from which she died in 1863. His later years were relieved only by a short visit to St. Petersburg in 1861, where his first acquaintance with opera appealed to his romantic imagination. The loneliness of his last years was aggravated by a disease of his fingers, which made every line he wrote an agony.
BE ayin 465; EJ; CD-EPI 0145877
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