New Article: Ofengenden, Therapy and Satire in Contemporary Israeli Film and Literature

Ofengenden, Ari. “National Identity in Global Times: Therapy and Satire in Contemporary Israeli Film and Literature.” The Comparatist 39 (2015): 294-312.

 

URL: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2015.1103877

 

Extract

To conclude let us step back and look at the effects of all of these transformation narratives together. These and other novels and films engage in a sustained reusing of the past and successfully transform the way people articulate their identity. They do this with an empathic retelling of the national story like Oz, with the German or Arab Israeli other as in the film Walk on Water and Arab Labor, or with a crazed narrator like Kaniuk’s and Castel-Bloom’s. Therapeutic interventions end with a working through of displacement and immigration, a heightened awareness of the effects of the Holocaust, and a new appreciation of the creative potential of Jewish identity and culture. Self-critical satire breaks open a monolithic national identity, exposing its constructed nature and calls for creative transformations. We can now ask why these two narratives are so central to the way literature and film re-imagine national identity in contemporary times. I think that the answer lies most prominently in globalization. International flows of culture, goods, and people help strengthen civil society in its critique and parody of state violence and state agents. Somewhat paradoxically, globalization also leads to a demand for specifically national narratives in the international market. In a recent talk, Salman Rushdie pointed out that contemporary writers are increasingly asked to mediate the story of a nation for an international audience. Indeed that is what his own Midnight’s Children did for India, what J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace did for South Africa, Toni Morrison’s novels for the U.S., and Oz and Grossman for Israel. Thus we get narratives that are called to represent the nation on an international market but heal, critique, or poke fun at it at the same time. The system in which Hebrew literature finds itself has radically changed. Previously this system or field was constructed as a national field; now the field is constituted as semi-global. Some actors achieve international success while others remain domestic. Some mediate and explain the national story on the global stage while others parody the nation in order to change it.

Israeli national-cultural discourse is not a sole expression of some underlying economic forces that determine its content. However, its expression is a result of creative adaptation to economical and political pressures and opportunities that have become more and more global. Mainstream literature and culture has responded by articulating narratives that simultaneously reflect feelings of lack of political agency and an empathic apologetic self-representation for the global other. Minor literature in Israel saw an opportunity in the weakening of the state to articulate a critique in the form of parody that attempts to reconfigure national identity.

 

 

 

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