New Book: Kronfeld, The Full Severity of Compassion. The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai

Kronfeld, Chana. The Full Severity of Compassion. The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015.

 

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Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) was the foremost Israeli poet of the twentieth century and an internationally influential literary figure whose poetry has been translated into some 40 languages. Hitherto, no comprehensive literary study of Amichai’s poetry has appeared in English. This long-awaited book seeks to fill the gap.

Widely considered one of the greatest poets of our time and the most important Jewish poet since Paul Celan, Amichai is beloved by readers the world over. Beneath the carefully crafted and accessible surface of Amichai’s poetry lies a profound, complex, and often revolutionary poetic vision that deliberately disrupts traditional literary boundaries and distinctions. Chana Kronfeld focuses on the stylistic implications of Amichai’s poetic philosophy and on what she describes as his “acerbic critique of ideology.” She rescues Amichai’s poetry from complacent appropriations, showing in the process how his work obliges us to rethink major issues in literary studies, including metaphor, intertextuality, translation, and the politics of poetic form. In spotlighting his deeply egalitarian outlook, this book makes the experimental, iconoclastic Amichai newly compelling.

 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: “Be an Other’s, Be an Other”: A Personal Perspective
  • 1 Beyond Appropriation: Reclaiming the Revolutionary Amichai
  • 2 “In the Narrow Between”: Amichai’s Poetic System
  • 3 “I Want to Mix Up the Bible”: Intertextuality, Agency, and the Poetics of Radical Allusion
  • 4 Celebrating Mediation: The Poet as Translator
  • 5 Living on the Hyphen: The Necessary Metaphor
  • 6 Double Agency: Amichai and the Problematics of Generational Literary Historiography

 

CHANA KRONFELD is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of On the Margins of Modernism: Decentering Literary Dynamics (winner of the MLA Scaglione Prize for Best Book in Comparative Literary Studies) and the co-translator (with Chana Bloch) of Yehuda Amichai’s Open Closed Open: Poems (winner of the PEN Translation Prize). Kronfeld is the recipient of the Akavyahu Lifetime Achievement Award for her studies of Hebrew and Yiddish poetry.

 

 

 

New Article: Nathanson, A Malignant Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? A Cardiothoracic Surgeon’s Perspective

Nathanson, Michael. “A Malignant Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? A Cardiothoracic Surgeon’s Perspective and Remedial Implications.” Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies 14.1 (2015): 105-22.
 
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/hlps.2015.0106

 

Abstract
A debate persists whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved through substantive and ‘painful’ compromises or that the foundational parametres of the conflict apriori deny a resolution. The nationalist Zionist agenda of mass Jewish settlement in Palestine inevitably clashed with Palestinian nationalist sentiments. Both nationalist movements saw the conflict as mutually exclusive. European imperialist designs and US political considerations at home only cemented the intractability of the conflict. As such, the conflict is akin to a human malignant process that is allowed to progress unchecked and compromises its host because those who were and are responsible to eradicate it have committed malpractice.

 

 

 

ToC: Shofar 33.4 (2015); special issue: Contemporary Israeli Literature

Coming soon (by July 1) in Shofar, a special issue on contemporary Israeli literature, edited by Rachel S. Harris.

Shofar is available on JSTOR and Project Muse.

Hebrew in English: The New Transnational Hebrew Literature

by Melissa Weininger

Although the historiography of Hebrew literature has often retrospectively portrayed its development as an Israeli phenomenon, recent scholarship has shown the ways in which Hebrew literature’s origins lie largely in the Diaspora. Two new books by Israeli writers written in English, Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and Ayelet Tsabari’s The Best Place on Earth, return to the diasporic roots of Hebrew literature by deliberately placing themselves as a challenge to the Zionist narrative of literary historiography. This article elaborates the ways that these books use English to explore the transnational nature of Hebrew literature and participate in a larger literary conversation about globalization. Their linguistic experimentation is also tied to the thematic challenges they pose to foundational Israeli mythologies, like that of the New Hebrew Man, through an emphasis on marginal characters and themes. This literature, which I call “Hebrew in English,” stands as a critique of hegemonic constructions of Israeli identity, nationalism, and culture.

Between the Backpack and the Tent: Home, Zionism, and a New Generation in Eshkol Nevo’s Novels Homesick and Neuland

by Rachel S. Harris

The relationship between travel and home are given new life in the novels of Eshkol Nevo. Framing the contemporary reality in narratives that explore Zionism, travel, and social activism, Nevo offers a conception of the new generation of Israeli writers torn between an Israeli identity, with its increasingly inclusive and polyethnic state, and a Jewish identity with its diasporic roots.

A Spatial Identity Crisis: Space and Identities in Nir Baram’s Novels

by Vered Weiss

The following article focuses on the use of spatial metaphors, and the presence (or absence) of Jewish-Israeli identities in Nir Baram’s novels, offering an overview of his work and locating it within a Hebrew literary tradition. In order to explore individual and collective identities in a (post)modern world, Baram makes extensive and elaborate use of spatial metaphors, blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, tampering with the stable organization of the world, and presenting homes that offer neither shelter nor warmth. The various characters in Baram’s texts—Israeli or not—are either homeless or otherwise displaced, yearning for a home they cannot fully comprehend or construct. The defamiliarization of space in Baram’s work creates the sense that Jewish-Israeli identities are implicitly present even when they are explicitly absent, and detached when they are, indeed, overtly present. This elusiveness seems to be the core of Jewish-Israeli identities as they manifest, or are alluded to, in Baram’s work.

Where You Are From: The Poetry of Vaan Nguyen

by Adriana X. Jacobs

In her debut collection The Truffle Eye (2014), the Vietnamese-Israeli poet Vaan Nguyen brings a mix of cultural and linguistic affiliations to her Hebrew writing that is arguably standard in today’s multilingual and multicultural Israeli society, particularly in the cosmopolitan milieu of Tel Aviv, where she locates much of her work. But as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who have settled in Israel, Vaan also engages and challenges—through the double position of the insider/outsider—the discourse of exile and return and the politics of memory in Israeli culture. In the 2005 film The Journey of Vaan Nguyen, the Israeli filmmaker Duki Dror offered a nuanced portrait of the friction between Nguyen’s Israeli and Vietnamese identities and her family’s Israeli present and Vietnamese past. In this article, I address how Vaan negotiates and articulates her double position through a close examination of scenes from the film and selections from The Truffle Eye. Against the problematic reception and reading of her poetry as exotic, I argue that the cosmopolitan and transnational movements that shape her work evince a characteristically twenty-first century Israeli mode of travel and translation.

The Shape of Time in Microfiction: Alex Epstein and the Search for Lost Time

by Adam Rovner

This article presents a general theory of microfiction that focuses on the formal elements of the genre’s poetics. My analysis argues that a symmetry exists between microfiction’s contracted spatialization, and the compression—and hence violation—of temporal norms of the reader’s anticipation. The violation of conventional reading anticipation makes microfiction seem not only to be new but also transgressive. Indeed, much microfiction is transgressive of prevailing ideologies of time that are premised on the existence of contingency and the efficacy of human agency. This article takes the work of Israeli microfiction author Alex Epstein as its touchstone while advancing a framework for a theory of the genre.

Alon Hilu and the Hebrew Historical Novel

by Shai P. Ginsburg

In this paper, I discuss Alon Hilu’s two historical novels, Death of a Monk (2004) and The Dejani Estate (2008), as symptomatic of Israeli culture of the twenty-first century. I argue that the question of genre—historical fiction—is as central to the construction of the novels as it is to their reception. As the latter evinces, historical fiction is perceived as blurring the proper boundaries between the “objective” and the imaginary and thus feeds anxieties about the relationship of Jews to history, anxieties that have been haunting Zionist discourses from their inception. Hilu’s novels trace these anxieties to concerns about sexuality and desire and employ them to explore the relationship between two central foci of the Hebrew historical novel, namely, historical agency and historical writing. The novels construct numerous “scenes of writing,” in which writing seeks to retrieve historical agency, embodied in the two novels by desire and sexual potency. Simultaneously, writing is revealed as a mere substitute for desire and sex. Both novels consequently suggest that writing attests to the failure to produce historical agency.

Femininity and Authenticity in Ethiopia and Israel: Asfu Beru’s A Different Moon

by Adia Mendelson-Maoz

This article discusses the work of the female Ethiopian-Israeli author Asfu Beru, whose collection of stories, Yare’ah Aher (A Different Moon) was published in 2002. The small corpus of contemporary Hebrew literature by Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants in Israel usually focuses on the narrative of homecoming and the journey to “Yerussalem,” while often viewing the African space retrospectively in utopian terms. By contrast, the stories in Beru’s collection are set in Ethiopia and do not deal with the journey or immigration to Israel. They depict a rigid traditional society that the protagonist, an adolescent female in many of the stories, has to confront. This article analyzes the convoluted relationship between multiculturalism and feminism through Beru’s hyphenated identity as a member of a traditional society, a woman, a Jew, and a Black, but who identifies at times with the hegemonic Israeli-Western perspective and takes a critical stance toward traditional Ethiopian society.

Settlers versus Pioneers: The Deconstruction of the Settler in Assaf Gavron’s The Hilltop

by Yaakov Herskovitz

This paper engages in a close reading of settlers, settlements, and the portrayal of settler ideology in the novel The Hilltop. This trailblazing novel from 2013, written by Assaf Gavron, foregrounds the image of the settlers in the West Bank and their relationship to the State of Israel. The paper explores this relationship through a discussion of settler ideology and how this set of beliefs comperes to Zionist ideology at large. Thus, the images of the settler and of Zionist pioneers are coupled and reexamined.

 

New Article: Lemberger, Changing Aspects in Shimon Adaf’s Work

Lemberger, Dorit. “Contacts and Discontinuities: Changing Aspects in Shimon Adaf’s Work.” Hebrew Studies 55 (2014): 330-354.

 

URL: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hebrew_studies/v055/55.lemberger01.html

 

Abstract

The writings of Shimon Adaf construct a hybrid, multicultural quasi-dialect that is unusual in Israeli literature in general and in the genre known as “Oriental Jewish literature” in particular. While Israeli Hebrew is hybrid by its very nature, there is a difference between hybridity deriving from instinctive use of the spoken language and that arising from an intentional, self-aware act designed to flout literary, and especially sociopolitical, conventions. In this article I shall demonstrate how Adaf’s use of imagery leads to unique, fresh literary and political positions. All Adaf’s protagonists are of Moroccan origin, from a small town on the periphery; they observe Israeli reality “from the outside.” They do not represent the “Oriental” voice that prevails in both fiction and scholarly writing by Jewish authors of non-European origin who delve into issues of discrimination, disenfranchisement, and other socioeconomic tensions. Adaf’s characters “cut loose” from acute current problems and via hybridity re-connect to bygone times. These characters raise universal, existential questions that do not stem from their belonging to a specific time and place, for example, those of relations obtaining between language and reality and of the possibility to change the latter by means of poetic language. Such problems are evoked by quotations from various literatures (Greek, English, German) and by the use of different strands of Hebrew: biblical, rabbinic, and Israeli. By employing metaphoric language, Adaf examines how the cultural norms in which language is steeped dictate modes of behavior and how we can influence the reformulation of these norms by the use of that very language.