Dan Miron On:
Uproar by Uri Nissan Gnessin
At first glance, this is a story about a market brawl, a squabble between porters in an Eastern European town a century ago. The refined storyteller, who is considered the father of the stream of consciousness narrative mode in Hebrew literature, had as if taken a “vacation” and descended to the common, crude and colourful life. However, this is a heart-breaking story about the attempt to escape existential desolation and the sense of absurdity it entails; an attempt carried out on several levels: that of the porter who tries to break free from his daily routine by going to the circus and the cinema in the nearby town; the attempt of all the bystanders watching the brawl, crowding around the squabbling people and quenching their dry souls through the unusual sight; and the attempt of the storyteller, who is in a state of intense distress, which manifests itself in the manner in which he relates the story of the brawl, to escape from desolation through the story itself. All these attempts ultimately fail. The thing from which the characters are attempting to escape— “let atar panui mineh” (“there is no place empty of it”), as Gnessin writes in Aramaic, the language in which the Kabala describes the divine eminence. Through the market scene, Gnessin tells a philosophical story.