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Hebrew Classics A Journey Through Israel’s Timeless Fiction and Poetry Dvir Abramov ich Israel: Society, Culture and History ---------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------• Classics A journey through Israel’s timeless fiction and Poetry ------------------------------------------------------------------ Abramovich Israel: Society, Culture, and History Yaacov Yadgar (Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University), Series Editor Editorial board Alan Dowty, Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Notre Dame Tamar Katriel, Communication Ethnography, University of Haifa Avi Sagi, Hermeneutics, Cultural studies, and Philosophy, Bar-Ilan University Allan Silver, Sociology, Columbia University Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Ethnicity, London School of Economics Yael Zerubavel, Jewish Studies and History, Rutgers University ---------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------• classics A journey through Israel’s Timeless Fiction and Poetry -------------------------- Dvir Abramovich --------------------------Boston Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: A catalog record for this book as available from the Library of Congress. Copyright © 2012 Academic Studies Press All rights reserved ISBN 978-1-93623594-0 Book design by Olga Grabovsky On the cover: Published by Academic Studies Press in 2012 28 Montfern Avenue Brighton, MA 02135, USA press@academicstudiespress.com www.academicstudiespress.com Dedicated to my children Lori and Ethan, who are with me through every step of this journey, and who are my pillars of strength and greatest source of inspiration. No father has ever had two more wonderful and beautiful children. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  ix Chapter I An Idyll of Rural Jewish Life Shaul Tchernichovsky’s “Boiled Dumplings”  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11 Chapter II Human Compassion as a Substitute for Divine Protection Yehuda Amichai’s “God Has Mercy on Kindergarten Children”  . . . . .  23 Chapter III Berating an Indifferent God Hayyim Nahman Bialik’s “On the Slaughter”  . . . . . . . . . . . .  35 Chapter IV Living in the Aftermath of the Holocaust Nightmare Shulamith Hareven’s "Twilight," "Loneliness," and "The Witness"   . . . .  49 Chapter V The Damaged Personhood of Holocaust Survivors Haim Gouri’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  67 The Chocolate Deal  Chapter VI Confronting the Incomprehensible Reality of the Holocaust Universe Hanoch Bartov’s The Brigade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Chapter VII A Clash of Generations Aharon Megged’s "The Name"   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  93 — vi — --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VIII  The Kibbutz Girl, the Arab, and the Snake, or, just a modern version of the Garden of Eden Amos Oz's "Nomad and viper" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  113 Chapter IX And the Righteous Shall be Rewarded Dvorah Baron’s “Sunbeams”  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  133 Bibliography  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  149 INDEX  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  156 — vii — ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- book is a celebration of great Hebrew novels, short stories, and poems. Each piece of literature examined here has been recognized as a major and substantial work within the Israeli and, occasionally, the international literary canon. Of course, greatness comes in many forms. Yet the golden thread that runs through the canvass of works presented here is that they seem remarkably fresh in their subject matter as when they were read decades ago. In a sentence, they have not dated and their prominence has not waned. Needless to say, tastes differ, and you may believe that another eleven works should have been selected. The inevitable agonizing headache I often suffered during the writing of this book involved the predictable and taxing concerns about inclusions and exclusions of texts. I was well aware of the inevitable questions I knew would be posed  —   “ Why did you leave that out?” or “Should you not have covered this author or that novel?” But the huge range of choices available, and the rich furrow of the field I could plough, meant that there are many literary gems that could not be represented here. One of the delights in writing this book has been the opportunity to include novels, short stories, and poems from various decades that have made a personal impact and that have meant so much to me. The simple truth is that my choice of materials stemmed first and foremost from my love for them and because of their literary, historical, and artistic value. But above all, it was because they made my heart pound when I first imbibed their words, images, forms, symbols, and messages. Since then, they have populated my intellectual imagination, and I have returned to them with some frequency. — viii — ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- project is also in many ways a response to the urgent request of teachers (with whom I have collaborated for more than a decade in presenting the splendor of Hebrew culture and fiction) to publish a volume that in a clear and informative manner would deepen students’ appreciation of the classics and serve as a valuable learning tool. It is my sincere hope that this book will connect readers with new experiences, challenge their perceptions, provide them with insights into Israeli and Jewish culture and generate greater empathy and understanding. There may be those for whom certain names are not as recognizable as others since some of the writers featured here are not well-known outside Israel. This may inspire readers to follow up and embark on a tour of the authors’ and poets’ other landscapes. More generally, readers may choose to undertake a personal odyssey into the domain of Hebrew fiction, a vista dotted by other literary pearls that are sure to inspire them. If in a small way my efforts here serve as a gateway to introduce and provoke readers to search for other Hebrew writers and cause them to come away with a more nuanced and profound appreciation of the Hebrew canon, then this ambitious undertaking was not in vain. I wrote these essays, in part, because I sensed that many readers seemed to possess little knowledge of the riches of Hebrew literature and, in part, because they were uninterested in the classics. What I did find was that when they did read and understood the themes of each of the narratives examined here, that it made an indelible impression on them. Their reluctance had vanished, replaced by enthusiasm and by a desire to continue to excavate the mines of this wondrous universe. Over the years, I have come to believe that everyone deserves to encounter masterpieces that capture the vision, voice, and personality of a singular artist, as well as a moment in time. Frankly, I could not bear the thought that those who are not familiar with Hebrew letters may never taste the fruits of such iridescent, iconic opuses. Finally, the chief pleasure of this project has been rereading these tales of merit and discovering anew the infinite complexities and wisdoms fleshed out in the caverns and domains the stories map. I hope that readers will share the enthusiasm that I poured into this book and — ix —