Academic journal article Hebrew Studies Journal

Duality and Acceptance: The Image of the Outsider in the Literary Work of Shimon Ballas

Academic journal article Hebrew Studies Journal

Duality and Acceptance: The Image of the Outsider in the Literary Work of Shimon Ballas

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In contrast to Aristotle, who established plot as taking precedence in the classical play, (1) R. Barthes assumed that what characterizes a story is the character, represented by a personal name. (2) The character is employed in stories as a molding element; objects and events exist because of the character, and it is only in relation to this character that they achieve coherence and likelihood and thus become meaningful and understandable. (3)

The literary work of Shimon Ballas, which is closer to the periphery of Hebrew literature than to its center, seems to confirm this assessment with characters who are far removed from the Jewish-Zionist subjects usually dealt with in Hebrew literature on both the daily and the existential-national levels. (4) However, it is also presumably because of this approach that Shimon Ballas has achieved special status in Hebrew literature which finds expression in his intensive and consistent dealings with human experience, personal identity, and the constant search for private truth by delving into the soul's depth and the intricacies of feelings.

Despite Hebrew literature's three major shifts since the founding of the state of Israel and the resultant differences in attitudes and details, it has not thematically diverged from the general framework dealing with the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli. The tendency to deal with the existence of the Jewish people in Israel has been preserved in each of these shifts. (5) By contrast, Shimon Ballas has tended to deal with the Jew in his work; hence, there are no crucial and significant differences among a Jew, a Moslem, a Christian, an idealistic person of any sort, or simply a person with no specific racial ties or identity. Nor does one encounter ethnic or communal categorization; his characters include Jews who are Arabs, Arabs who are Jews, and those who are neither Jews nor Arabs. Shimon Ballas' singularity in modern Hebrew literature is that he depicts unusual characters who possess double identities and who are antagonistic to the character possessing the prevalent Zionist-Israeli identity. In this respect, the majority of his characters are not within the range of consensus, since all or most of them are "minority members" in the fullest sense of the word, existing on the fringe and outside the system. Some are even modelled on real people, as in Horef Aharon, Vehu Alter and Otot Stav. The reader may also find biographical links between the characters and the author himself, (6) since perhaps he, like his characters, is different and distinct, to use Nathan Zach's words. (7)

It seems that the intensive use of the terms "otherness" and "difference" by J. Derrida in various contexts of philosophy and semiotics inspires many scholars to use the same terms, in addition to others from Deconstruction theory, within the context of literary canonization. Canonization in literature has gained currency in various contexts and terms. It is a major approach to dealing with minor literature in many fields: national, ethical, cultural, linguistic, and ideological. It is also a matter of social class in terms of color, sex, and breed. It is, finally, a question of interrelations between literary genres.

E. Said deals with this question in terms of power and control (colonizer and colonized). (8) He claims that the category "colonized" has been recently expanded to include women, blacks, minorities, powerless sectors, and persons with dual and complicated identities. All these fields indicate two opposite and unequal poles of minority and majority. Said supports the helpless minorities and sympathizes with the colonized. According to him, there are only two ways for a possible dialogue between the colonizer and the colonized: conciliation and acceptance. The colonized can choose only one of them: to fight against the colonizer by all means available, or to be accepted by the colonizer in accordance with the colonizer's own logos and conditions. …

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