Dear Anna,

Agnon attempted to make his books canonical – that is, part of the Hebrew Bible. He wrote a modern Hebrew literature that was an extension and addition to the Bible in the same way that Virgil wrote an addition to Homer (and Dante to Virgil, &c). And he pulled it off. More than anyone, he connected the Israel of today to the Israel of David and Solomon.

Canon comes from κανών, the carpenter’s measure. Patristic writers used the word to describe the texts included in the New Testament (a story about a carpenter!), and that’s more or less how we use it today (though not how Helen uses it – don’t tell her I brought up an etymology!).

When I read the so-called Great Books, I have no doubt that they’ve become Biblical, i.e. true and perfect. The novels and poems and histories are all part of the one Book that begins with Genesis. As of yet there is no final chapter, though I gather that chapter is what the underground surrealists are writing down in their caves. When it’s finished, the world will end.

vale bene,