Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

Basic HTML Version

JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
32
centrated for more than one hundred years in the vast land-mass
of Eastern Europe. Palestine was then only a minor center of
literary activities. At the end of the First World War the inimical
a ttitude of the communist government to Hebrew as a reaction-
ary, counter-revolutionary instrument almost stilled the voice of
Hebrew literature in Russia. Palestine, with its pioneering settlers
and pioneering writers, quickly emerged as the new home of He-
brew literature. At the same time a young Hebrew literature of
considerable import developed in the United States. Both in Pal-
estine and in the United States, Hebrew literature was chiefly a
literature of immigrants — people whose roots were not in the
lands of their sojourn. Laboring in tension which was perhaps a
contributory factor to creative efforts, the writers reflected a multi-
loyal attitude to the world: they either reconciled the import of
their youthful experiences under different skies with the impact of
their new milieu or drew on the successive layers of their lives and
the lives of their forebears as if they had been separate and un-
related lives. I t was A. D. Berkowitz, the master-translator of
his father-in-law, Sholom Aleichem, into Hebrew, who became the
voice of the uprooted in America while history-conscious Sackler
recreated Canaanite and medieval ancestry, the world of Hasidism
and the world of early American Jewry in drama and fiction.
Recently a native literature has asserted itself in Israel, bu t there
are only sporadic evidences of native Hebrew writers in America.
New names appear with rare intervals in the Hebrew periodicals
of this country — in
Hadoar
and in
Bitzaron.
V
In Israel Hebrew literature draws its sustenance from the soil
and the sky, from the language and the life of the land. In America
it is an exotic growth, satisfying primarily the needs of the writer
and a comparatively small Hebrew-speaking group: hence a
marked degree of introspection and a preponderance of poetic out-
pu t in America — not necessarily a disadvantage. In Israel there
is an overwhelming concern for the immediate; in America there
is a leisurely yearning for the eternal. A “ realistic,” soil-bound
literature is predominant in Israel; in America, Hebrew literature
is more “ romantic,” more soul-bound.
There is also a marked difference in the Hebrew language as it
is being spoken and written in Israel and in the United States.
There, the Hebrew language already boasts a healthy, picturesque
slang and some not very healthy barbarisms and colloquialisms
which have been imported in unabashed literal translations from
Yiddish, German, Arabic and other languages. Here, the Hebrew