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CHAPTER V PERETZ BEN MOSHE SMOLENSKIN (1839-1884) The biographer of
Peretz Ben Moshe Smolenskin, R. Brainin, is obviously right in
saying that the Smolenskin whom we know from his novels and essays,
is not the one that might have been, had he written under different
circumstances. In his works we see only his silhouette, not his
real portrait. While his literary personality and great talent were
still in the making, his life was cut short, and Hebrew literature
was bereft of one of its sincerest, most talented, and most
sympathetic writers. It would perhaps seem strange, at first sight,
to speak of a writer of forty five, who already had behind him some
fifteen years of literary activity, as still having been in his
literary teens. The talents of Byron and Poe were fully developed
before they had reached the years of Smolenskin, and they would
probably not have added much to their fame, had they attained to
twice their actual age. The literary, at least, the poetic, career
of Lamartine Was practically ended at forty, though he lived to be
well advanced in years. In the case of Smolenskin, however, every
page of his writings testifies to the fact that we have before us a
man of great literary power, but, at the same time, that this power
is artistically unripe, warped, and uncontrolled. And little
wonder. Neither were his pre-literary life and training conducive
to an adequate preparation for his literary career, nor, did the
conditions under which he carried on his activity tend fully to
bring out his literary powers. Born in poverty and brought up
partly under the influence of the Yeshiboth (Tal- .mudic
academies), and partly under that of Hasidism, ?in an atmosphere,
hostile to the spirit of modernism and secular literature,
Smolenskin received neither the education nor..
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