By Leon Simon
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Extra info for Ahad Ha-am - Asher Ginzberg: A Biography
He returned home, defeated, after two or three weeks. His defeat was due to his own lack of self-confidence and of the touch of hardness without which a son cannot deliberately wound his parents. There is nothing to suggest that he had any strong emotional attachment to his father and mother; but he was a dutiful son, and the reproachful letters which he received from home while in Vienna confronted him with the prospect of a constant tug-of-war, for which he had no stomach. Thus predisposed against continuing on the course on which he had embarked after so many postponements, he was able to persuade himself that the objective difficulties in his way were really serious.
I entered it as a boy of twelve, and left it as a man of thirty, with a wife and children; I entered it pure of soul and full of hope, and left it with despair in my soul and a heart torn and weary. We do not know exactly when this was written, but certainly it was not until some years after he had settled in Odessa, by which time he should have been able to look back on his village life with some degree of detachment. Yet he writes as though his wounds were still fresh, and in terms which, in the light of his subsequent career and achievements, seem grossly exaggerated, to say the least.
He was an exceptionally clever and precocious boy, with no interest outside his studies. As a child he had been fond of reading romances, and he records having shed copious tears over those of Kalman Shulman (1819–1899), one of the most distinguished of the early Haskalah writers, including his Hebrew translation of Eugene Sue’s Mystères de Paris; but there is nothing to indicate that his love of light literature outlasted his childhood. He had already shown a marked aptitude for talmudic studies, which no doubt encouraged his father in the hope that he would in due course fulfill the most cherished paternal ambition of the traditional Jew by becoming a rabbi.