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M. Y. Berditschewski occupies an awkward place in the history of Hebrew letters. He was a powerful influence on many early Zionist thinkers, but he lived (during his last 20 years) far away from the centers of Zionist activity, and while in Berlin, far from Jewish life there. His range of scholarship, belletristic writing, and essays was disproportionate to the world's awareness of his work, and even the people he inspired (Katznelson, for example) probably were affected by only a small part of his erudition. He described himself as isolated, but had lengthy correspondence with people like Buber, Brenner, Horodetzky, David Neumark, and many others who shaped the twentieth century.
This essay looks at Berditschewski's perspective on the Hebrew language in terms of his better known ideological position as one of the young "Nietzscheans." As with regard to so many other issues of modern Jewish intellectual history, his essays convey a considerable inconsistency and ambivalence. Yeshurun Keshet called his positions "zugot shel hafachim." My article is based on thirteen essays, largely from a unit called "Inyenei Lashon," which I have translated and which await editing and publication in English.
The specifically English speaking audience addressed in this essay is asked to reflect on the perplexities of the future of Hebrew in light of the way that future was viewed nearly a century ago, by a thinker from another important diaspora center who feared the diaspora but was comforted by its cultural textures.