Agnon House in Jerusalem - the home of the greatest of the Hebrew writers in modern times, and a laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon lived and wrote in this home for some forty years. It was here that he wrote the greatest novels of Hebrew literature in the 20th century: "A Simple Story," "Temol Shilshom" (Yesterday and the Day Before), "Shira," and dozens of other stories which continue to stir the imaginations of multiple readers throughout the world.
Agnon House, which was built in 1931, was planned by the architect Fritz Korenberg, who was also the "neighbor opposite" him. Korenberg, a German born architect planned the home as a modest and reserved version of the international Bauhaus style characteristic of the 1930s.
The narrow windows of the house, covered with metal latticework which looks like fire scorches and lend the look of a fortress to the home. This is no coincidence – two years prior to the building of the house, the Riots of 1929 took place in Jerusalem, during which the neighborhood of Talpiot suffered from persistent and consistent attacks by rioters, residents of the nearby Arab villages. Considerable damage was caused to property and to human life. The homes in the neighborhood went up in flames while the residents fled for their lives. Agnon's rented home was burglarized and looted, and his library was totally destroyed. The impressions made by the riots are without a doubt evident in Korenberg's planning of the house by which he sought to plant a feeling of security and safety in the hearts of the residents of the home.
At the time of its construction, Agnon House which faces the desert landscapes and the Dead Sea was the easternmost home in the neighborhood.
Agnon loved the neighborhood and its landscapes deeply and even wrote about it in many of his stories:
"Until Talpiyot was built, the king of the winds ruled there throughout the land, and all his ministers and his servants - strong and grueling winds there on the mountain and in the valley, upon the hill and in the gorge, doing whatever their hearts desire, as if the land had been given to them alone. One time, I happened to get there. I saw that the place was nice and the air was pure, and the sky pure blue and the land spacious, and I strolled to my content…"
In this home, finally, after hardships and wanderings, Agnon found long years of quiet, serenity and creativity. In the story, "From Enemy to Lover," Agnon speaks of his home, saying:
"I will not praise my home, as it is small, and I will not be ashamed of it for there are bigger and better than it. My home is small, but there is space in my home for a man like me who does not seek grandeur."
While the entry level floor served the life of the family, the upper floor was dedicated to Agnon's writing. The children were not permitted here when their father was writing or studying, and they had to keep quiet throughout the house.
Agnon's rare and impressive library is in his study with the thousands of books in it including prayer books, books of liturgical poetry, ethics, Kabbalah and Hasidut, the literature of deliberations in Jewish Law, midrash and agadah, and Jewish history – alongside contemporary literature. In Agnon's library, there are books from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century alongside ancient and rare books from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Agnon tended to write standing, leaning on the writing stand (the shtander) placed by the window. This habit was surely acquired during his many years of study in batei midrash.
Following Agnon's death in 1970, Mordechai Ish-Shalom, who had been mayor of Jerusalem from 1956 through 1959, initiated the opening of the home to the public at large – a special center for Agnon's literature and the story of his life. At the beginning of the 1980s changes were made in the home in order to adapt it to its new role: the original bedrooms, the kitchen and the family dining room were turned into a lecture and conference hall. Over the years, literary and cultural evenings were held in the home and many guests from Israel and throughout the world visited to the home.
In 2005, the Agnon House Association in Jerusalem initiated a project for preservation and renovation of the home which had grown old and there was a real danger threatening its continued existence. The preservation project was concluded and the home was reopened in the month of Tevet 5769, January 2009.
The newly restored Agnon house - home of Shmuel Yosef Agnon, the greatest Modern Hebrew writer and Nobel prize laureate for literature. Call for information about our tours, educational programs, activities, lectures and special events.
Entrance fee: 20 NIS adults, 15 NIS children/soldiers/senior citizens
For more information:
Address: 16, Klausner Street, Talpiot, Jerusalem (bus #7)
to visit the Agnon House Website.