Fun Facts Friday: Shai Agnon

July 17, 2015

Shai Agnon (17 July, 1888 – 17 February, 1970) was a Jewish author whose works deal with the conflict between the traditional Jewish life the world as it moves on. His works are part of the Israeli schools curriculum to this day.

50 NIS Bill Obverse & Reverse.jpg
50 NIS Bill Obverse & Reverse” by Oren neu dag
self-made, scan of the bill.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Shmuel Yosef Halevi Czaczkes in a Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now in Ukraine.
  2. Halevi’s father, Shalom Mordechai was a fur trader and an ordained rabbi with connections in the Jewish Hassidic world. Halev’s mother family had connections to a group called the “mitnagdim” (opponents), who opposed the rise of Hassidic Jews in Europe.
  3. In 1908 Halevi moved to Jaffa (then in Ottoman Palestine) and published his first story, Agunot (Forsaken Wives) in the journal Ha`omer, as Agnon.
  4. He adopted Agnon as his nom de plume and added his initials as S.Y Agnon or Shai Agnon.
  5. In 1920 Agnon married Esther Marx in Germany. The couple had two children and lived in Berlin.
  6. During his time in Germany, Agnon was considered a relic in the Jewish community at home and abroad for his writing. Being a religions man and familiar with Jewish scripture he was considered by the assimilated, secular German Jews as “The Jews’ Jew”.
  7. In 1924 Agnon was traumatize by a fire in his house which destroyed many rare books and manuscripts. He moved with his family to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot. Unfortunately, in 1929 his library was burned again during anti-Jewish riots.
  8. Agnon was twice awarded the Bialik Prize for literature (1934, 1950) and the Israel Prize, for literature (1954, 1958).
  9. Agnon was awarded the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature for ” his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people”. He shared the prize with author Nelly Sachs.
  10. Agnon’s image has appeared on the 50 shekel bill since 1985, along with an excerpt from his speech upon accepting the Nobel Prize (bill was discontinued in 2004).

Zohar – Man of la Book

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