Ágnes Hankiss

The Stubborn at Heart

My forays into Jewish intellectual history began with Buber’s Hasidic tales and continued with Graetz’s six-volume Jewish history. The magic world of Hasidic tales gave me much food for thought about  the spiritual connections between Jewish mysticism and the teaching of the New Testament. (…) In Graetz’s work, however, I was especially intrigued by the generations of Marranos – perhaps not by chance. The Marranos were Jews by origin and Christians (cristianos nuevos, ‘New Christians’) by religion. But when persecution showed them a mirror, or when they experienced an inner conflict, they broke with their former life and returned to the faith of their ancestors, even in the midst of dangers and vicissitudes. Heroes of a no man’s land? One could certainly put it that way. This is perhaps what I was taken by – their feverish, stalwart determination to find a home. The deeper the source of this yearning, and the more sacrifices these people were willing to make, the less chance there was for them to succeed…

“Joseph Caro walked to the meadow where one of Luria’s disciples claimed he had seen the specter of Solomon Molko.But his friend failed to turn up, even though Caro implored him, pleaded with him to forgive him. As if there was anything to forgive. But then birds appeared. Angels. They brought a book. Green is the color of redemption, he remembered suddenly. Was it the book of redemption that he was holding in his hand? He opened it eagerly. He waited for the fire to break out. But there was no fire. The pages were rolling empty and dead. A suffocating emptiness gushed forth from the book, slapping his face, penetrating him and overwhelming him, while silence descended on the olivegreen, tenderly undulating hills of Galilee. Finally, a voice came out from the twilight humming of nature – or did it come from inside, that sentence which overrode? answered? mocked? the recurring, obstinate dilemma of his hardworking decades: There is no redemption. There is, at most, a process of quiet progression.