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REVIEWS THE WRITING OF YEHUDA AMICHAI: A THEMATIC APPROACH. By Glenda Abramson. SUNY Series in Modem Jewish Literature and Culture. pp. viii + 254. Albany: State University of New York, 1989. Cloth/Paper. This book is the first one which is dedicated to the complete scope of Amichai's literary work: poetry, novel, story, and drama. The book opens with a brief introduction which maps the literary, historical, and social context of Amichai's writing. The author reaches the conclusion that Amichai's writing has not significantly deviated from the major trends prevailing in Hebrew literature through the nearly four decades of his literary activity. However, that fact has never been a stumbling block on Amichai's way to mold his own original poetics, his innovative style and, notably, his figurative language. Although Amichai considers his writing a rebellion against the celebrated Shlonsky and Alterman, who were strongly influenced by Russian and French symbolism which emphasized, among other things, the intricate and daring metaphor, Amichai's figurative language is perhaps less complex, but not less original, colorful, and daring. The first chapter of the book is dedicated to Amichai's poetry. As Amichai is first of all a poet and most of his literary creation is in the genre of poetry, this is the longest of the book's four chapters. It is divided into six sections. The first section, "Biography and Autobiography," examines autobiographical "stratum" in Amichai's poetry and the way autobiographical materials are molded to fit in Amichai's lyrical poetry. Abramson maintains that autobiographical materials in Amichai's poetry often interact with mythic motifs such as exile from a birthplace; the loss of a beloved and innocent girl who dies as a sacrificial victim to be sought subsequently through the love of many women; war and the hero-aswarrior ; the putative killing of the father through rejection of his teaching; and a concomitant rebellion against God. Time, naturally, acts as a prominent protagonist in poems by Amichai which display the presence of autobiographical materials. Nevertheless, in the bulk of Amichai's poetry time does not represent an objective chronological process "but constitutes the framework that contains the remembering and forgetting: an individual , personal, existential time" (p. 25). The second section of the poetry chapter is "Allusion and Irony." Abramson argues that the major source for allusions in Amichai's poetry is Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 88 Reviews the Bible and Jewish liturgical texts. In many poems by Amichai, allusions and irony meet and interact while fonning expressive patterns. Amichai's "mobilization" of the biblical allusion is rarely an innocent one, for a subtle deviation from the original text produces a witty, piercing irony. Abramson emphasizes that allusion in Amichai's poetry is not just a local literary device but is indeed "a system of thought" (p. 35). She compares Amichai to Joyce, Eliot, and John Donne "in his employment of classical texts for the purpose of ironic pointedness, leading to a kind of subversive intertextuality" (p. 35). Amichai utilizes-ironica1ly-the biblical allusion in three major ways: by parodying the original text; by quoting from it verbatim and then providing a commentary to it; and by alluding to it through misquotation, distortion, wordplay, and so on. The third section of the book's poetry chapter is ''The Father and God." Abramson discerns in Amichai's early poetry a continuous track of blatant criticism against God: "0 Lord full of mercy I If the Lord were not so full of mercy I There would be mercy in the world I And not only in him..." (from "God Full of Mercy"). In Amichai's later poetry, however, God's presence is still strongly evident. Nevertheless, in the later poetry, God is less universal and more of a Jewish character. Abramson cogently shows that in his later poetry the father figure is emphasized. That emphasis on the father figure calls for a comparison with God's portrait: while God appears as capricious and even cruel, the father stands for tradition and Jewish values as well as spiritual morality. Also, in contrast to God, the father is depicted as a tender, loving, devoted, and pious man. Thus, the father in Amichai...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 87-92
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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