Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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L EAH GO L D B E R G — I N M E M O R I A M
By
I
t z h a k
I
vry
W
h e n
L
e a h
G
oldberg
was laid to rest on January 16, 1970,
many in Israel and abroad mourned her passing, not only
because she died at a relatively young age, but also because she
was a beloved poetess, a great teacher and literary critic, a story
teller, a dramatist, a painter, but above all, a person of a wise heart.
All these qualities made her one of the central luminaries in
the firmament of Israeli contemporary poetry. Her many varied
talents served to strengthen the basic harmony of her character
and of her outlook on life and people. Her tone was always quiet
and subdued; her ingrained esthetic sense and dedication to
creative art were remarkable. She was neither overbearing nor
hypersentimental, either in her poetry nor in her prose. This rare
combination of lyricism and quiet dignity, of feelings and wisdom,
of impressionistic vision and analytical mind, made her a rare
figure indeed in the world of Israel’s belles lettres.
When asked what literary personality influenced her most, Leah
Goldberg replied that the writers dear to her are so great that one
can hardly learn from them; one can only love and admire them.
Her insight seemed to conform to E. M. Forster’s observation
about the greats—one cannot be influenced by a pyramid; one can
only admire it. In poetry her preferences changed from time to
time, but in prose she was enamored of Tolstoy and also of Chek-
hov. In Hebrew literature she admired Bialik (especially in his
childhood domain) and S. J. Agnon. Her early meeting with
Gnessin’s stories was of much import to her, as was her confronta-
tion later with the poetry and personality of Avraham Ben-Itzhak.
Of world poets her favorites were Dante, Pushkin, Goethe and
Baudelaire. Raised mainly on Russian and German literature,
she became closely acquainted with English and American poetry
much later. She relished some of the poems of Dylan Thomas, but
felt a sense of separation from Eliot’s poetry. Of the non-classics,
the Russian, Alexander Block, and the German, Rilke, appealed
to her.
Leah Goldberg was born in 1911 in Kovno, Lithuania, and
graduated from the local Hebrew high school to study philosophy
and Semitic languages at the universities of Kovno, Berlin and
Bonn. She reached the shores of Palestine in 1935 and joined the
group of young poets and writers (Avraham Shlonsky, Eliezer
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