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8 The Literary Legacy of the Love Story “binyamina, 1947” and “we loved here” Ruth Z. did not take many belongings with her when she left Haifa, but tucked deep in her bag, she did carry the hand-bound blue notebook on whose cover the words “Binyamina, 1947” were inscribed. The six sonnets in this notebook depict the light-filled, blissful days that she and Yehuda had spent together in Binyamina. While for Ruth Z. the sonnets capture specific, personal memories, for a scholar of Amichai’s work, they are essential to understanding the poet. Knowing about the events that happened during that fortnight enables the critic to connect Amichai’s life with his poetry in an eye-opening new way and to compare the precamouflage period in Amichai’s writing with what he would eventually publish. “binyamina, 1947” “Binyamina, 1947” is a cycle of six tender love sonnets—a poetic “diary” of groundbreaking scholarly significance.1 According to Ruth Z., Amichai regularly composed poetry from the summer of 1946 through August 1947.2 “Binyamina , 1947,” however, is the only piece that remains intact. Written around Amichai’s twenty-third birthday, it is the earliest piece of his poetry known to date, and the only complete, unpublished sequence of poems found from any period of his life.3 “Binyamina, 1947” never appeared in print, piecemeal or otherwise. Only the phrase “We loved here,” from the first line of Sonnet I, survived . Seven years later, Amichai would use it as the title of his canonic twentythree -sonnet cycle, now a classic of Hebrew literature.4 Were it not for the discovery of Ruth Z.’s collection of the poet’s letters and other papers, this earlier cycle would have been lost entirely. Amichai made no effort to camouflage the events that the Binyamina sonnets chronicle and recorded the experience just as he saw it. As truthful as they are, though, the sonnets are also colored by a strong bias toward idealization, which highlights their playful and ecstatic nature. Any negative experiences during the two-week stay in Binyamina are glossed over entirely. For example, neither Amichai nor Ruth ever forgot their first dramatic night in Binyamina and the British soldiers’ invasion of Mrs. Kaiser’s house, but the “Binyamina, 1947” sonnets completely ignore it.5 It is clear, therefore, that the sonnets are not an accurate record of their stay, but rather Amichai’s attempt to idealize the couple’s time there. Amichai’s underlying agenda in the sonnets is to preserve what happened in his own memory and to monumentalize that memory. The sonnets strive to establish the stay in Binyamina as a private myth—an island of existence undisturbed by the outside world. Amichai’s choice of the sonnet for “Binyamina, 1947” is logical, as it is the traditional genre of love poetry, but it also betrays his literary sensibility.6 In writing “Binyamina, 1947,” Amichai emulated the romantic German texts he had discovered in high school.7 His idol, Rilke, favored the Petrarchan sonnet, and it is not surprising that Amichai was drawn to it. In fact, Amichai’s published sonnets share a number of qualities with the German poet’s.8 Finally, the poems that Yehuda gave Ruth as a remembrance are not independent sonnets , but rather a sonnet sequence, the form Rilke used to write his masterpiece , Sonnets to Orpheus. As the norm of sonnet cycles dictates, Amichai arranged the sonnets according to an intellectual order, with an overall integrity that is both topical and chronological. Woven around the subject of love, the poems contain a strong narrative thread that follows the couple’s escapades. The work is neatly balanced and the web of interconnections among the sonnets allows them to be broken up in both symmetrical and asymmetrical ways. Each of the six sonnets that make up “Binyamina, 1947” is titled with a roman numeral, and each relates to a different aspect of Ruth and Yehuda’s trip to Binyamina. Even though the cycle was written by a novice, it captures the atmosphere and the mood of the fortnight. Indeed, while Amichai’s letters and Ruth’s recollections allow for a reconstruction of particular events (as related in the previous chapter), the poetic lens of the sonnets enriches the portrait of the small town called Binyamina with colors, scents, sounds, and touch. Sonnet I The first line of “Binyamina, 1947” declares “we loved here,” and exclaims that everything and everybody loved...


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