Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe. Shachar M. Pinsker. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010. Pp. xiv + . $60.00 (cloth).
Diasporic Modernisms: Hebrew & Yiddish Literature in the Twentieth Century. Allison Schachter. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. x + . $35.00 (cloth).
Reconfiguring Surrealism in Modern Hebrew Literature: Menashe Levin, Yitzhak Oren and Yitzhak Orpaz. Giulia Miller. London: Vallentine Mitchell Publishers, 2013. Pp. $84.95 (cloth).
All three scholars demonstrate that Hebrew modernist fiction, no matter where it was being written, shared some common literary and cultural ideals. The writers “advocated the departure from a socially and historically grounded mimesis towards a portrayal of the ‘hidden’ realities of human existence, to engage with universal (and modernist) concerns such as sexuality, religiosity, existential angst and related themes.” Experimentation in Hebrew literature was not simply tied up with Zionism and the creation of a national homeland, but also reflected a broader and more complex history that valued the power of language to articulate a modern, cosmopolitan Jewish experience. By contextualizing Hebrew modernist writing within European, American and Native American cultural history, and tracing the development of modernism in Israel, wherein it was vastly neglected, all three works raise new questions about the role of place, thought and language in the life of the movement.
This article identifies key characteristics of sovereign Israeli Jewish identity and its relationship with space in Israeli novels and novellas published between 1967 and 1973, in the context of the complicated dialogue between these texts and Israeli public discourse. Interacting with their contemporary public discourse, the canonical novels and novellas of the period—Michael Sheli [My Michael] by Amos Oz (1968), Nemalim [Ants] by Yitzhak Orpaz (1968), and Hapardes [The Orchard] by Benjamin Tammuz (1972), create an Israeli space in which a Jewish sovereign is surrounded and threatened by an Arab enemy, and as a precondition to his survival, must renew his sovereignty and declare a state of emergency to confirm it. As opposed to the besieged space constructed in contemporary discourse and in these canonical novels, David Shahar’s novels of the period construct a fluid space in which contrasting identities can shift and replace each other with no existential threat.