The Experienced Soul: Studies in Amichai

The Experienced Soul: Studies in Amichai

The Experienced Soul: Studies in Amichai

The Experienced Soul: Studies in Amichai

Synopsis

Amichai is Israel's foremost poet, as well as a significant novelist and dramatist. He has received every major Israeli prize for literature. This comprehensive scholarly overview explores all the major genres and themes of Amichai's work.

Excerpt

Glenda Abramson

Yehuda Amichai was born in 1924 in Würzburg, Bavaria, to a family of Orthodox Jews. He received a traditional education and first encountered Hebrew through prayers at the age of four or five. In 1936 his family emigrated to Palestine, settling first in Petach Tikva and then in Jerusalem where he continued his religious education.

During the Second World War he joined the Jewish Brigade and served in Egypt. Later, in the Palmah, he smuggled arms and "illegal" immigrants into Palestine. At this time he began to read modern English poetry, particularly the works of W. H. Auden which, together with the poetry of the medieval Jewish warrior-poet Shmuel Hanagid, were to remain a major influence on his own writing. His encounter with Auden and, to a lesser extent, with the works of T. S. Eliot led to his exploration of the Hebrew language as a vehicle for expressing the postwar mood. When asked in an interview whether he viewed himself as a rebel against the tradition of Shlonsky and Alterman, Amichai denied any conscious attempt to initiate a new wave of poetry. However, he is frequently cited by critics as the forerunner of a school of poetry that celebrates the developing language by utilizing its colloquial richness. He is also credited with belonging to the "generation of the land", dor baaretz, the generation of writers born during the first quarter of the twentieth century, fondly termed the Palmah generation. This popular sobriquet is largely a generalization, for the generation to which it refers does not constitute a homogeneous artistic "school"; its nominal representatives fall into distinct categories determined by biographical circumstances, by cultural background, by their choice of themes, or by the poetics that distinguishes one literary convention from another. Amichai's work is a case in point: it constituted a departure from any previous or contemporary literary norm. In his extensive paper for this volume, Gershon Shaked discusses the relationship between Amichai's new "genotype" and that of his literary forebears.

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