Sadan (Stock), Dov

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SADAN (Stock), DOV

SADAN (Stock), DOV (1902–1989), Yiddish and Hebrew writer and scholar. Born in Brody, Eastern Galicia, from his youth Sadan was an ardent Zionist and active in the propagation of the Hebrew language and culture. In the early 1920s he was a leader of the He-Ḥalutz movement in Poland.

After immigrating to Ereẓ Israel in 1925, Sadan worked as an agricultural laborer until 1927, when Berl Katznelson offered him a position on the staff of the newspaper Davar. In 1928 he went to Germany on behalf of the He-Ḥalutz movement. There he came in close contact with modern Germanic culture, especially with the new trends of culture history and psychoanalysis. Upon his return he taught in schools in Lower Galilee and in Jerusalem, but in 1933 he resumed his work on Davar, where he remained for the next ten years. In 1944 he joined the staff of Am Oved, the publishing house of the Histadrut. Sadan became a faculty member of The Hebrew University, teaching Hebrew composition, and was appointed chairman of the Yiddish department in 1952. From 1965 to 1970 he also taught Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University. Elected to the Knesset as a member of Mapai in 1965, he resigned before the end of his term. He was an active member on the boards of many literary and cultural institutions, such as the Academy of the Hebrew Language and the board of directors of Mosad Bialik.

Sadan began his prolific literary career at an early age; his more than 50 volumes represent less than half his total output. Although his initial literary efforts were in poetry, he abandoned this medium and, turning to prose, became one of the great masters of modern Hebrew prose. He developed a highly individual style, complex, very "literary," rooted in Jewish sources, and yet graceful and flexible. Throughout his career he experimented with various modes of fiction, ranging from the memoir story (he published two volumes of childhood memories) to the modern surrealistic story (Sadan was the first to translate Kafka into Hebrew). The bulk of his work, however, comprises nonfiction, especially essays and literary and scholarly articles in Judaic studies. His essays cover a wide variety of subjects, such as current events, memoirs, portraits of famous personalities, and essays on problems of Jewish culture. He pursued research in such areas as folklore, humor, idioms, and the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, etc. His literary and scholarly creativity, however, reached its zenith in his studies of Hebrew and Yiddish literature.

Sadan's critical approach to literature and other Jewish studies is based on a broad and novel view of modern Jewish history. He rejects the view which identifies modern Jewish literature only with those Hebrew and Yiddish literary trends that grew out of the modern "secular" Jewish culture, beginning with the Haskalah (18th and 19th centuries) and continuing in the nationalistic literature (end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries). He argues that modern Jewish literature was a major reaction to the crisis in traditional Jewish culture in Central, and especially Eastern, Europe at the end of the long Jewish "Middle Ages" in the 18th century. It developed in three principal directions, and not one, as claimed by the maskilim: (1) the new "rabbinic" movement, centered mainly around the Lithuanian Mitnaggedic movement, which was a revitalized continuation of halakhic literature; (2) the mystic-ḥasidic trend which developed a versatile literature consisting of many genres (sermons, parables, allegory, legend, hagiography, mystic-philosophic writings); (3) the Haskalah trend which aimed at creating a European humanistic literature.

This vast, complex, and intricate body of literary writings, written in several languages (Hebrew, neo-biblical, as well as late Hebrew, Yiddish and European languages), with its different spiritual trends, Sadan sees as one literature, which he terms "the Israel literature," and defines it all as literature written by Jews for a Jewish readership. In this giant network Hebrew literature must be the foundation and principal axis, yet the scholar or the critic should not concentrate exclusively on it. Sadan demands that the literary historian and critic: (1) see modern Jewish literature ("Israel literature") as one multi-faceted unified body and accept the different languages in which it was written; (2) study each of the above areas individually but at the same time try to find ideational, thematic, and linguistic links between them. For instance, it is impossible to give a profound, objective, and critical evaluation of the biting, at times virulent, satirical-parodic anti-ḥasidic Haskalah literature without studying it in relation to ḥasidic literature's "mixed" Hebrew, which was the butt of the Haskalah parody; (3) study the dialectical essence of the relationship between the different areas of the literature. According to Sadan, the antithetical tension between these areas will, in time, be resolved into a harmonious synthesis.

Central to Sadan's Jewish world view is the belief that the modern "secular" Jewish culture which broke away from traditional Judaism is only an antithetical transient ("episodic") stage in the history of Jewish culture. The emerging Jewish culture, however, will not return to its ancient traditional form but, deriving its inspiration from the source of all Jewish culture – religious faith – will be molded into a new cultural synthesis in which the experience gained by the Jewish culture in its temporary secular stage will play a significant role. Sadan finds the first signs of this synthesis in modern Jewish literature at climactic points of development where the Jewish culture reaches the zenith of artistic and aesthetic accomplishment. In Hebrew literature he points to two artistic peaks: Bialik's poetry and Agnon's fiction.

Sadan uses different critical methods to establish the connecting links between the different areas of Jewish culture, which are often contradictory in their literary expression. He most frequently resorts to the study of motifs, idioms, and linguistic combinations, a method founded on Freud's theory of the psychic. The psychoanalytical approach is particularly apparent in his early critical works (especially in his articles on J.Ḥ. Brenner and Ḥ.N. Bialik); later, however, this method is used only indirectly. (Sadan introduced the psychoanalytic approach into Hebrew literary criticism.) He continued, however, to employ freely the method of "investigation" which requires of the critic keen perception and a phenomenal amount of knowledge in all the facets of literature. This method lends a "technical" character to some of his scholarly writings, and Sadan therefore often resorts to the graceful short essay form which gives him an all-embracing and original view of the world of an author and the whole body of his works. Sadan's literary criticism is always sensitive to the canons of good taste.

Sadan translated many volumes from Yiddish, German, and Polish and two large volumes of Jewish jokes (Ka'arat Egozim, 1953; Ka'arat Ẓimmukim, 1950) which he compiled.

His main collections of Hebrew literary criticism are Avnei Boḥan (1951), Al S.Y. Agnon (1959), Avnei Bedek (1962), Bein Din le-Ḥeshbon (1963), Bein She'ilah le-Kinyan (1968),and Avnei Gader (1970). Late works include Avnei Sha'ashu'a (1983) and a collection of essays on Hebrew and Yiddish literature entitled Ḥadashim Gam Yeshanim (1987). A bibliography of his works was prepared by Y. Galron-Goldschlager (1987; 1994). His main collection of Yiddish literary criticism is Avnei Miftan (vols. 1 and 2 (1961, 1970)).


S. Halkin, Derakhim ve-Ẓiddei Derakhim ba-Sifrut, 2 (1969), 241–9; I. Kohen, Aspaklaryot (1968), 111–36; S.Y. Penueli, Sifrut ki-Feshutah (1963), 362–76; D. Sadan, in: Moznayim, 29 (1969–70), 3–9. add. bibliography: G. Shaked, "Bein Lashon le-Ḥevrah," in: Masa, 13 (1972), 1, 5; E. Schweid, "Haguto shel Sadan," in: Molad, 7 (1976), 405–7; A.B. Jaffe, in: Al ha-Mishmar (March 4, 1977); S. Halperin, "Otobiografiyyah shel Shefa: Al D. Sadan," in: Moznayim: 54:3–4 (1982), 23–25; H. Hever, "Ha-Ma'agal ha-Shelishi," in: Siman Keriah, 16/17 (1983), 574–77; D. Miron, "D. Sadan, Ba-Derekh el ha-Kiliyut," in: Molad, 42 (1985/86), 129–35; Sh. Werses, "Weygen di Yidishe Ketavim fun D. Sadan," in: Di Goldene Keyt, 122 (1987), 5–16; D. Weinfeld, Iyyunim ba-Sifrut: Devarim she-Ne'emru be-Erev li-Khvod Dov Sadan (1988); Sh. Werses, "D. Sadan be-Olamah shel ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah," in: Moznayim, 64:3–4 (1990), 18–24; Y. Szeintuch, "Shemesh ha-Or," in: Shenaton ha-Sefer ha-Yehudi (1992),175–84; N. Govrin, "Dov Sadan – Av ha-Binyan," in: Yerushalayim, 19 (2002), 215–20.

[Dan Miron]