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Passing of Shmuel Yosef Agnon, 1970

On This Day in Jewish History: February 17, 1970


On this day, 1970, we remember the passing of literary giant, Shmuel Yosef Agnon (pen name S.Y. Agnon, or Shai Agnon). Mr. Agnon was born in 1888 in what is now, Ukraine (then the Austria-Hungary empire). At the turn of the century he immigrated to Ottoman-occupied Palestine where he resided the rest of his life, seeing it change hands in to British control and ultimately, as Israel when it achieved statehood in 1948. He was married to Esther Elsa Marx Agnon. Agnon passed away at 81 and he is buried at the Mount of Olives Cemetery in Jerusalem, Israel. Agnon was an award-winning author of novels and short stories. He wrote in Hebrew and many of his celebrated works have been translated into around twenty languages. Overall consensus of his literature is that it provides a sense of nostalgia that incorporates Jewish tradition. While there was nostalgic tone, the writing allowed for ample understanding of contemporary issues with a psychological focus and lens for reading. His writing of Jewish lifestyle has been observed and studied extensively. The tones of Hebrew that Agnon wrote with were pre-modern conversational, which sets the nostalgic tone as well. One of the best examples was the Bridal Canopy, where he recreates the “golden age” of Hassidism. In 1966, Agnon received one of the world’s most recognized writing awards, the Nobel Prize for Literature. This award was shared with German Jewish author, Nelly Sachs. Winning this award meant that Agnon was the first (and still only) Hebrew author to win this prize. He emphasized the importance of his Jewish identity in his writing when he accepted the award in Stockholm. Other awards he received were the Bialik Prize and the Israel Prize, both of which he received twice for his writing. Israel celebrates their beloved literary figure. His private home has been memorialized by the nation and can be visited as a public landmark. The National and Hebrew University Library in Jerusalem was entrusted with his literature and archives it accordingly, as part of the estate. Society has yet to collectively judge another Hebrew language-based author for their iconic work as much as S.Y. Agnon.

Sources: https://www.britannica.com/biography/S-Y-Agnon https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8228070/shmuel-yosef-agnon https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/shmuel-yosef-quot-shai-quot-agnon https://deadorkicking.com/shmuel-yosef-agnon-dead-or-alive/

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