Voices of Israel: Essays on and Interviews with Yehuda Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, T. Carmi, Aharon Appelfeld, Amos Oz (review)
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 14, Number 2, Winter 1996
- pp. 173-175
- Additional Information
Book Reviews 173 they are faster. This vehicle is original, its seats are luxurious, and if this is as fast as it goes, it is enough. Dayenu. Neal Singer Science Writer Sandia National laboratories Voices ofIsrael: Essays on and Interviews with Yehuda Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, T. Carmi, Aharon Appelfeld, Amos Oz, by Joseph Cohen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. $54.50 (c)j $17.50 (P). During the 1980s Joseph Cohen, then Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Tulane University, taped interviews with these five Israeli writers. What makes the book that much more interesting is the fact that Mr. Cohen then proceeded to include full-scale analyses of the works discussed in the interviews. A chapter was thus dedicated to each of the writers, who participated not only by agreeing to be interviewed but afterwards by continuing to answer queries and send encouragement to the author, as he tells us in the Acknowledgments. Each chapter is rounded out by notes of a bibliographical nature with reference to other critical works; the whole is happily completed by means of an index, making it thereby very useful indeed for the scholar. There is, however, a lot in this book that will be enjoyed by an interested layman as well. Its fascination lies in the fact that the cultural realm in which these five authors grew up is not part of Mr. Cohen's background, yet literature is quite clearly very much his business. The author tells us of his own accord that he does not know Hebrew. He therefore offers his apologies in the Preface: "Since I am not a Hebrew scholar and do not read Hebrew, and since my expertise in literature, such as it may be, is in American and British poetry and fiction, I make only the most modest of claims for the critiques in this book. I would be the first to admit that whatever thoseclaims may be, they are inversely proportional to the degree ofchutzpah I displayed in undertaking to write authoritatively about a body of literature I could not read in the original and with which I had only the most tenuous previous connections." This apology proffered out of modesty is actually superfluous, since the. book bears witness not only to the author's expertise but to his sensitivity to the language of the five writers treated in his book as well. See, for example, what he has to say about Carmi on p. 90, and on "My Michael" on p. 143. If there is need for a counterweight, then Joseph Cohen is capable of 174 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, NO.2 discerning the lines that bind the writers of the "New Wave," those who appeared on the stage of Hebrew literature after the War of Independence , to the literary education in which they were raised in their homeland and to the western literary tradition and its influences. Especially notewonhy are the author's views about the "Breakdown of Causality," one of the components in Alben Einstein's theory. The five chapters in the book are divided into two pans: the analysis of the works and the interviews with their author. The analyses are striking in their subjectivity. Thus is Amichai's struggle with God placed at the center of the analysis of his works: "Amichai, like Shapiro, keeps his intimate, unfriendly Covenant with God, preclusive of religion and an, by constantly challenging Him" (p. 10). Carmi stands in contrast to him: "Unlike Amichai, who observed in his interview with me that he had little patience with Jewish Mysticism, adding that 'it didn't do anything for [him]' it does a lot for Carmi" (p. 89). After the author declares that "In the Land ofIsrael" byAmos Oz falls outside the scope of his analyses here, he observes that "Where the Jackals Howl" and "In the Land of Israel" became well known, the first on the strength of its narrative qualities and the latter "because it came to be widely read in the United States, making Oz's name a Jewish household word and creating for him the national audience that the novels and novellas, however remarkable, had flat produced...