Samson, the Hebrew Novel: The History of the Writing and Reception of Jabotinsky's Novel and the Consolidation of the Norms of Realism in Hebrew Literature
- Jewish Quarterly Review
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 110, Number 4, Fall 2020
- pp. 733-755
- Additional Information
This essay addresses the history of writing and reception of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky's novel Samson the Nazarite (1927). Specifically, it focuses on Jabotinsky's switch from Hebrew to Russian in the course of the writing and on the ambivalent reception of novel's Hebrew translation in 1930. It hypothesizes that Jabotinsky's artistic goal in the novel was difficult to achieve under the linguistic conditions that prevailed in the Hebrew literary and cultural space in the 1920s and 1930s and could be realized more easily in a different language. In the course of its argumentation the essay examines unique characteristics of the tradition of realistic representation that took shape in Hebrew literature, the establishment of norms of spoken Hebrew and Modern Hebrew poetry in the 1920s in Palestine, the ambiguous place of biblical narratives in 1920s Hebrew culture, and finally, the characteristics of the reception of Jabotinsky's work as a reflection of the linguistic reality in the Yishuv in the Palestine of the time. The essay suggests that Jabotinsky's inability to create a Hebrew text that would organically combine the biblical and the archaic with the realist and the modern was at least partially responsible for his turn to Russian. The use of Russian allowed him to blur the boundaries between the mythical and the real and to fantasize about the original authenticity and linear progression of Jewish historical experience in the Land of Israel while avoiding their concretization and subsequent disproval.