Between Snow and Desert Heat: Russian Influences on Hebrew Literature, 1870-1970/poetry and Prophecy: The Image of the Poet as a "Prophet," a Hero and an Artist in Modern Hebrew Poetry

By Jacobson, David C. | The Jewish Quarterly Review, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Between Snow and Desert Heat: Russian Influences on Hebrew Literature, 1870-1970/poetry and Prophecy: The Image of the Poet as a "Prophet," a Hero and an Artist in Modern Hebrew Poetry


Jacobson, David C., The Jewish Quarterly Review


RlNA LAPIDUS. Between Snow and Desert Heat: Russian Influences on Hebrew Literature, 1870-1970. Translated by Jonathan Chipman. !Monographs of Hebrew Union College 27. Detroit: Wayne State University Press [for] Cincinnati, Ohio: Hebrew Union College Press, 2003. Pp. xi + 225.

REUVEN SHOHAM. Poetry and Prophecy: The Image of the Poet as a "Prophet," a Hero and an Artist in Modern Hebrew Poetry. Brill's Series in .Jewish Studies 31. Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2003. Pp. xii + 357.

The revival of the Hebrew language and the emergence of a range of genres of literature written in that language remain, along with the establishment of the state of Israel, among the great wonders of modern Jewish history. Modern Hebrew literature, like all bodies of literature, drew extensively on previously existing literary models. For modern Hebrew literature there were, essentially, two categories of models: the internal models found in the Bible and in postbiblical classical Jewish texts (which were mostly written in Hebrew) and the external models found in a 'whole range of Western literary texts. Kach of the monographs under review, written by Israeli scholars and recently published in English, focuses on one of those categories. Between Snow and DeJert Heat, by Rina Lapidus of Bar Ilan University, focuses on the ways that Russian literature provided a variety of models on which Hebrew writers drew in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth centu ry, while Poetry and Prophecy, by Reuven Shoham of University of Haifa and Oranim Academic College of Education of the Kibbutz !Movement, deals primarily with the ways that three major Hebrew poets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries modeled themselves on the prophets of ancient Israel, and in a related manner on heroic images found in a variety of cultures throughout the history of humanity.

Between Snow and DeJert Heat was ably translated by Jonathan Chipman; no translator is credited for Poetry and Prophecy. The latter work, unfortunately, suffers from a number of instances of awkward, grammatically incorrect phrasing that could have easily been corrected if the manuscript had been submitted to more careful copy editing. The publishers of these volumes, Hebrew Union College Press and Brill respectively, are to be commended for making available for English readers without knowledge of Hebrew otherwise inaccessible criticism on modern Hebrew literature by Israeli scholars.

After a brief overview of the approaches of such well-known literary critics as Roland Barthes, Harold Bloom, Julia Kristeva, and others to the questions of how literary texts relate to those that have preceded them, Lapidus presents a series of nine largely self-contained chapterlong studies of the relationship of individual Hebrew writers to Russian culture and literature: Y. H. Brenner (1881-1921), Isaiah Bershadsky (1871-1908), Mendele Mokher Seforim (1835-1917), Y. D. Berkowitz (1885-1967), Hayyim Lensky (1905-42/43), Hayyim Hazaz (1898-1971, to 'whom she devotes two chapters), Saul Tchernichowsky (1875-1943), and Alexander Penn (1906-68).

In most of the chapters, Lapidus undertakes a textual comparison of writings of a Hebrew writer and those of a Russian writer who, she argues, influenced the Hebrew writer. The majority of these chapters involve comparisons of works of fiction: two novels by Ivan Turgenev and Bershadsky's novel Ai.mleJj; satiric narrative works by Nikolai Gogol and those by A'lendele; Leo Tolstoy's trilogy Chißhood, Boyhood, and Youth and Berkowitz 's autobiographical novel Chapters of Chißhood: My Father'j HuMe; Tolstoy's War and Peace and Hazaz's Shmuel Frankfurter. The book also includes two chapters that explore the influence of a Russian poet on a Hebrew poet - that of JVlikhail Lermontov on the younger Tchernichowsky, and that of Sergei Ksenin on Penn. In each chapter, Lapidus makes clear that the works of these Hebrew writers were far from slavish imitations of the writing of the Russian authors who influenced them. …

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