Academic journal article German Quarterly

Zeit der Zasur. Judische Dichter im Angesicht der Shoah

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Zeit der Zasur. Judische Dichter im Angesicht der Shoah

Article excerpt

Eshel, Amir. Zeit der Zdsur. Judische Richter im Angesicht der Shoah. Heidelberg: Winter, 1999. 243 pp. DM 68.00 hardcover.

This book has the great virtue of combining two hard-to-combine qualities: boldness and subtlety. What makes Eshel's study bold is its forceful answer to the `Jewish Question" in postwar German-Jewish and Hebrew poetry, that is, to the question of whether or how this poetry can be called Jewish. About the poetry of Paul Celan, Dan Pagis, Rose Auslander, Jehuda Amichai, Jakob Glatshteyn and Nelly Sachs, Eshel contends, "Die facettenreiche Rhetorik der Zeit dieser Dichtung verweist-so werde ich zeigen-auf die Spuren eines nicht anders als jiidisch definierbaren Zeit- and Geschichtsbewudtseins" (15). This kind of strong philosophical claim, provocative italics and all, is necessary, according to Eshel, because an understandable fear of essentializing has led scholars of German-Jewish poetry to stay where it is safe: on the surface, on the level of explicitly Jewish themes and motifs, such as, say, defiant invocations of Jewish traditions in the face of annihilation. At the same time, he challenges us to recognize that Celan's self-identification extends beyond a lyrical recollection of a shattered Jewish culture. Indeed, the second part of Eshel's striking main assertion is that the status of time in the poetry of Celan, Pagis, Auslander, Amichai, Glatschteyn and Sachs is a complex affair, and that these figures are not simply remembering a Jewish past. Their deeper "Jewish" poetic principle, the "nichts anders als judisch definierbar Zeit- and GeschichtsbewuBtseins" that evokes a postShoah Jewish perspective, has to do, rather, with the absence of traditional historical memory and historical past.

It is here that Eshel becomes very subtle. Mobilizing formidable erudition, he shows, through intricate, comparative readings of exemplary texts (e.g., Celan's "Wolfbohne"), how the poetry in question departs from previous models of aesthetic time. According to Eshel, in this poetry time is constructed as an "ewige Gegenwart" or eternal "jetzt" (17). …

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