Suddenly, the Sight of War

9780804784108: Hardback
Release Date: 24th February 2016

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 288

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture

Stanford University Press

Suddenly, the Sight of War

Violence and Nationalism in Hebrew Poetry in the 1940s

The book explores the drama of the Hebrew poetry coping with the violence of the Holocaust and the Israel-Arab war.
Hardback / £60.00

Suddenly, the Sight of War is a genealogy of Hebrew poetry written in pre-state Israel between the beginning of World War II and the War of Independence in 1948. In it, renowned literary scholar Hannan Hever sheds light on how the views and poetic practices of poets changed as they became aware of the extreme violence in Europe toward the Jews.

In dealing with the difficult topics of the Shoah, Natan Alterman's 1944 publication of The Poems of the Ten Plagues proved pivotal. His work inspired the next generation of poets like Haim Guri, as well as detractors like Amir Gilboa. Suddenly, the Sight of War also explores the relations between the poetry of the struggle for national independence and the genre of war-reportage, uniquely prevalent at the time. Hever concludes his genealogy with a focus on the feminine reaction to the War of Independence showing how women writers such as Lea Goldberg and Yocheved Bat-Miryam subverted war poetry at the end of the 1940s. Through the work of these remarkable poets, we learn how a culture transcended seemingly unspeakable violence.

Contents and Abstracts
1Part I: Hebrew Symbolist Poetry During World War II
chapter abstract

The first part focuses on the struggle of the poets of the Hebrew symbolist school in Eretz-Israel to represent the violence perpetrated against Jews in Europe at the beginning of World War II. The overruling aesthetic approach of Hebrew symbolism transforms during the war into a national commitment, favoring the national symbol of the living-dead as a discursive tool. Nathan Alterman's Joy of the Poor, the most important book of poetry of the period, established itself as an ideological and poetic source of influence for many Hebrew literary works of the literary generation of the 1940s.

2Part II: Historical Analogy and National Allegory During the Holocaust
chapter abstract

This part focuses on the surprising manner in which Nathan Alterman dealt with the Holocaust in his book The Poems of the Plagues of Egypt (1944). The fact that Alterman fully internalized the annihilation of the Jewish people in Europe created a revolution in his patterns of poetic representation. By writing The Poems of the Plagues of Egypt Alterman changed his poetics dramatically—from one dominated by the symbol to one dominated by allegory.

3Part III: Symbols of Death in the National War for Independence
chapter abstract

During World War II and right after, there was a noticeable effort by some members of the symbolist school led by Avraham Shlonsky to return to what had been the dominant nationalist symbolism. Influenced by a labor-movement culture, these writers and other artists produced images of national sovereignty during the war and in its wake. This part of the book includes a detailed discussion of the political and literary relationships between war reportage and war poetry, as well as an analysis of women's war poetry and the way it uses representations of the human body to subvert the hegemonic literary representations of the war.

Hannan Hever is the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at Yale University. He is the author of several books, including Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon.

"An important work by a brilliant scholar, Suddenly, the Sight of War is an important contribution to understanding the poetic responses to World War II in Hebrew poetry."

Vered K. Shemtov
Stanford University

"Suddenly, the Sight of War is an erudite research that proposes an original reading of Hebrew poetry at a time of deep cultural and political reshaping....Suddenly, the Sight of War takes the reader on a poetic voyage that deeply helps understanding the impact that the Second World War and 1948 had on the formation of Israeli culture and confirms Hannan Hever as one of the most authoritative and original scholars of modern Hebrew literature."

Dario Miccoli
Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History