Prooftexts

Prooftexts
Volume 25, Number 1+2, Winter/Spring 2005
Special Issue: Kishinev in the Twentieth Century

CONTENTS

Articles

    Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934.
    Klein, A. M. (Abraham Moses), 1909-1972, tr.
  • "Be'ir Hahareigah" / The City of Slaughter
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    Subject Headings:
    • Poetry.
    Laor, Dan.
  • Kishinev Revisited: A Place in Jewish Historical Memory
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    Subject Headings:
    • Laor, Dan -- Travel -- Moldova -- Chisinau.
    • Chisinau (Moldova) -- Description and travel.
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Kishinev Massacre, Chisinau, Moldova, 1903.
    Abstract:
      A hundred years after the Kishinev pogrom and the publication of H. N. Bialik's "In the City of Slaughter," the author of this paper is making his way through the streets and alleys of the city of Kishinev, now the capital of the Republic of Moldava, trying to follow Bialik's itinerary the way it is represented in the poem as well as in the poet's notes and diaries. The tour — by itself an odyssey into various layers of Jewish memory — provides a rare possibility for a re-reading of the classical poem in connection with the very place in which it has been generated.
    Gluzman, Michael.
  • Pogrom and Gender: On Bialik's Unheimlich
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Kishinev Massacre, Chisinau, Moldova, 1903.
    • Pogroms -- Moldova -- Chisinau -- History -- 20th century.
    Abstract:
      It is often argued that Bialik's condemnation of Jewish cowardice in his long poem "In the City of Slaughter" promoted a radical change in the way Jews perceived themselves. His poetic wrath, it is said, jolted the Jewish public and inspired the Jewish self-defense movement, which called for the emergence of a New Jew. However, as this paper aims to show, Bialik response to the pogrom was more ambivalent and complex than previously thought. A rereading of Bialik's texts from this period — poems, letters, memoirs as well as the interviews he conducted with pogrom's survivors — reveals his ideological and emotional quandaries. By reading these texts (and of their censored versions) I expose Bialik's drama of writing, his doubts and hesitations vis-à-vis the Zionist concept of the New Jew and the fissures in his own national and gender identity.
    Milner, Iris.
  • "In the City of Slaughter": The Hidden Voice of the Pogrom Victims
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Kishinev Massacre, Chisinau, Moldova, 1903.
    • Pogroms -- Moldova -- Chisinau -- History -- 20th century.
    Abstract:
      In the light of recent scholarship, "In the City of Slaughter" can be read as an emotional and a political manifesto, considerably removed from the actual events of the Kishinev pogrom. Taking this reading one step further, this essay attempts to recover the authentic voice of the pogrom victims, which presumably remains intact in the eyewitness accounts that Bialik transcribed during his visit in the site of the pogrom.

      In order for these voices indeed to be exposed, however, this text, too, requires a subversive reading, which works to deconstruct its logic and organization. Such a reading pays close attention to the core experiences of the pogrom: the element of surprise (despite previous warnings), the blurring of borders between friend and foe, and, most importantly, the preferred strategy of self-defense: negotiating with the perpetrator was often revealed to be more effective than aggressive responses.

      Obviously, these insights adumbrate the major public controversies about the appropriate Jewish response to violence, particularly in the wake of the Holocaust. These, in turn, help explain the lasting preoccupation with the Kishinev Pogrom and Bialik's literary responses thereto in Jewish and Israeli public discourse and of its formative role in constituting Jewish and Israeli collective memory.

    Horowitz, Sara R., 1951-
  • The Rhetoric of Embodied Memory in "In the City of Slaughter"
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Kishinev Massacre, Chisinau, Moldova, 1903.
    • Pogroms -- Moldova -- Chisinau -- History -- 20th century.
    Abstract:
      The language of Bialik's poem "Be'ir hahareigah" links the memory of catastrophe with bodily witnessing, so that even the secondary witness absorbs and internalizes sensory impressions of the pogrom. At the heart of the poem, symbolizing the essence of atrocity, is a brief but graphic narrative of rape. The most extended narrative moment in the poem, the rape of the Kishinev women, includes the cowardice of the Kishinev men, who hide in the background. This essay reads this narrative against the backdrop of Jean Améry's use of rape as metaphor in his essay "Torture" and relates Bialik's use of rape to issues of power and masculinity. In looking at ways that Bialik's poem anticipates literary responses to the Shoah, the essay compares the place of rape in "Be'ir hahareigah" to the function of rape scenes in Holocaust narratives. Looking at Bialik's poem alongside the 1943 poem by Hillel Bavli about ninety-three martyred maidens — two poems used liturgically to stand for Jewish historical experience — the essay explores the role of gender in shaping Jewish cultural memory about catastrophe and loss. Examining these works through the lens of gender reveals ways in which depictions of violated women shape a discourse about masculinity, politics, and ideology.
    Shapira, Anita.
  • "In the City of Slaughter" versus "He Told Her"
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Brenner, Joseph Hayyim, 1881-1921. Hu amar lah.
    Abstract:
      Bialik's poem "In the City of Slaughter" and Brenner's short story "He Told Her" deal with the same topic: the reaction of Jews to murderous assaults and humiliation. Both of them deplore Jewish passivity and the meek acceptance of fate. But here the resemblance ends: Bialik directs his rage toward his people, while Brenner extols the young Jew, a precursor of the "New Jew," who defies his mother and Jewish traditional stance and joins a self-defense organization.

      This essay explores the dialogue between some of Bialik's earlier poetry and his later "Songs of Wrath." The essay also points out the relationship between Brenner's and Bialik's poems and the generational differences between them regarding God, revenge, and self-defense.

      Both works were included in the compulsory reading lists of youth movements in Palestine and Israel. The negative way in which they were understood by the young to reflect upon Diaspora Jews is evidence of the difficulty in reading works out of their historical context.

    Roskies, David G., 1948-
  • Bialik in the Ghettos
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934 -- Influence.
    • Yiddish poetry -- Poland.
    Abstract:
      In the face of the total destruction of European Jewry, three Yiddish poets — Yitshak Katzenelson in Warsaw, Simkhe-Bunem Shayevitsh in Lodz, and Abraham Sutzkever in Vilna — underwent a period of radical self-confrontation, whereupon each poet assumed the mantle of prophecy. Rather than merely mimic Bialik, however, each poet subverted his poetic legacy in different ways. By combining the lyric and epic, the present and ancient past, sorrow and rage, the fate of the individual and that of the people as a whole, they repudiated Bialik's romantic agony. Whereas heretofore, only the male poet could arrogate to himself the voice of a biblical prophet, the ghetto poets, each in his own way, broke down the internal barrier between male and female victims and voices. And finally, it was the very scope of the catastrophe that made it imperative for the surviving poet to adopt such a commensurate literary genre: monumental, high rhetorical, and nationally significant.
    Band, Arnold J.
  • Two Travelogues: Bialik's "In the City of Slaughter" and Levi's If This Is a Man
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    • Levi, Primo. Se questo è un uomo.
    Abstract:
      Reading Bialik's "Be'ir hahareigah" in 2004 involves confronting the reader's experience of Holocaust literature. To deal with this problem, I compare Bialik's great poem with Primo Levi's If This Is a Man (Survival in Auschwitz), since each work represents significant features in the literary articulation of traumatic events. While both are generically travelogues, Bialik leads us through a knowable scene of destruction, and Levi must guide us through a hitherto unknown locale of dehumanization, the Lager. The specific modality of each work determines its emplotment and its language.
    Kaplan, Lawrence.
  • A More Contemporary Voice: A. M. Klein's Original and Revised Translations of the Hebrew Poems of Hayyim Nahman Bialik
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934 -- Translations into English -- History and criticism.
    • Klein, A. M. (Abraham Moses), 1909-1972 -- Criticism and interpretation.
    Abstract:
      In 1936 – 37, A. M. Klein, the distinguished Montreal Jewish poet, translated into English thirteen of Bialik's poems, including "Be'ir hahareigah." Some twenty years later, during 1953 – 55, Klein retranslated four of the poems that he had translated in the 1930s, including part of "Be'ir hahareigah," as well as translated for the first time Bialik's poem "Kokhavim metsitsim vekhavim."

      This essay first accounts for the differences in style between Klein's 1930s translations and the revised 1950s translations and for the general superiority of the latter over the former by examining the shift in poetics that is manifest in Klein's writing of original poetry. It then shows that Klein's revised translation of "Be'ir hahareigah" is an exception to this general superiority, suffering from exaggerated, strained, and fervid diction and an overly jagged, splintered, and fragmented style untrue to the original, and suggests that these flaws may result from an attempt on the part of Klein to rewrite "Be'ir hahareigah" as a Holocaust poem. Finally, it suggests — to be sure, speculatively — that the reason Klein never completed that revised translation is that at some point he realized that his post-Holocaust audience was not emotionally ready for the poem's indictment of the victims of Kishinev for their cowardice, passivity, and non-resistance — particularly since it would likely view the poem by extension as an attack on the victims of the Holocaust.

    Kasher, Asa.
  • "Senseless Is Your Death as Senseless Is Your Life"
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934. Be-ir ha-haregah.
    Abstract:
      Our gate into Bialik's poem "In the City of Slaughter" is the line used for the title of the present essay. The voice that the poet hears at the cemetery is an amazing one, as long as it is taken to be a human voice. A divine voice may ascribe senselessness without creating so much amazement. A divine voice may ascribe senselessness from another point of view, that of a certain divine project, in which such an individual human being could have played a role but failed to. Accordingly, the claims that "senseless is your life" and "senseless is your death" should be understood within the framework of a divine project that failed.

      What is the divine project that failed? A prevalent reading of the poem leads to a simple answer to our question. The divine project is that of maintaining a Jewish form of life that is honorable. Thus, self-defense of Jews was justified on grounds of honor protection.

      The major conceptual ingredient of the new, viable, collective project that emerged as a lesson of the poem is the idea of shouldering full responsibility for the Jewish fate. Most important among the differences between the old and the new projects is the difference between every Jewish form of life in exile and a possible Jewish form of life in an independent state of the Jews.

      Pace Bialik, even on the background of a new collective project, an ascription of "senselessness" to a certain person's life rests on conceptual mistakes. The lives and deaths of the victims of Kishinev were not senseless, even though they took place within a collective project that failed and that was replaced by an alternative one.

Bibliography

  • Bibliography
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bialik, Hayyim Nahman, 1873-1934 -- Bibliography.
    • Jewish literature -- History and criticism -- Bibliography.

Reviews

    Sokoloff, Naomi B.
  • The Holocaust and Literature for Children
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bosmajian, Hamida. Sparing the child: grief and the unspeakable in youth literature about Nazism and the Holocaust.
    • Kertzer, Adrienne, 1949- My mother's voice: children, literature, and the Holocaust.
    • Kokkola, Lydia, 1967- Representing the Holocaust in children's literature.
    • Children's literature -- History and criticism.
    • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature.
    Jelen, Sheila E.
  • Reading and Writing Women: Minority Discourse in Feminist Jewish Literary Studies
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    Subject Headings:
    • Zierler, Wendy. And Rachel stole the idols: the emergence of modern Hebrew women's writing.
    • Balin, Carole B. To reveal our hearts: Jewish women writers in Tsarist Russia.
    • Parush, Iris. Reading Jewish women: marginality and modernization in nineteenth-century Eastern European Jewish society.
    • Hebrew poetry, modern -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
    • Russian literature -- Jewish authors -- History and criticism.
    Perry, T. Anthony (Theodore Anthony), 1938-
  • Jewish Metaphysical Poetry?
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    Subject Headings:
    • Tanenbaum, Adena. Contemplative soul: Hebrew poetry and philosophical theory in medieval Spain.
    • Hebrew poetry, Medieval -- Spain -- Andalusia -- History and criticism.
    Rosen-Zvi, Ishay.
  • Misogyny and Its Discontents
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    Subject Headings:
    • Baskin, Judith Reesa, 1950- Midrashic women: formations of the feminine in rabbinic literature.
    • Women in rabbinical literature.

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