This paper focuses on the frequent use of the linguistic combination “they spoke in their tongue” in the poetics of Yehoshua Kenaz. The use of this phrase in Kenaz’s poetics in the 1980s marks, I argue, a profound poetic and ethical turning point in those years. This is a decisive transformation reflected in the way Kenaz formed characters, in particular, in his portrayal of non-Hebrew-speaking immigrants. In contrast to the approach taken by writers such as Amos Oz’s or A. B. Yehoshua’s approach to non-Hebrew-speaking characters, when characters speak in their tongue, Kenaz’s narrator can never hear everything. In Kenaz’s work, the asymmetrical relationship between the Hebrew-speaking narrator and the foreign character comes to the fore. This involves the drawing attention to the tense gap between the Hebrew language and the foreign tongue, a gap constituting an impassable barrier and an unequivocal obstacle for the Hebrew speaker who wishes to hear. Unlike with erasure/immersion poetics, Kenaz leaves an impassable obstacle with regard to the foreign character’s language, which is a linguistic position that I call the poetics of trace.


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pp. 79-98
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