Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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HAROLD FISCH
On the Poetry o f Shin Shalom*
S
h in
sh a lo m
(pseudonym of Shalom Yosef Shapira) was born in
Poland in 1904 to a long line of Hasidic rabbis. T ru e to this
background, his writings reveal a strong kabbalistic bent, a sense
of mystery, and a feeling for the unseen. He moved out of the
confined area of Hasidic orthodoxy, however, in his youth, mak­
ing contact with secular Zionism on his arrival in Palestine in
1922. For some years thereafter he taught in the north of the
country, return ing to Europe in 1930 to study philosophy in
German universities. He was back in Jerusalem in 1932, and in
1954 settled in Haifa where he has since remained. Mr. Shalom
has won numerous awards for his work, the most prestigious
being the Israel Prize for literature in 1973. He has been Chair­
man of the Hebrew Writers’ Association of Israel since 1968.
Shin Shalom has written two novels and a tragic drama (“T he
World’s Sabbath,” 1945). But his major contribution has been
in poetry, where he is justly regarded as the major successor to
H. N. Bialik from whose verse his own poetry has taken a deep
imprint. Shalom is a metaphysical poet in the fullest sense; his
theme is the conflict in the soul of the individual and tha t of
the people, and the search for a stable relationship between the
self and tha t which is outside the self. His poetry reflects the
crisis of identity of modern man in general and of the Jew in
particular. English translations of several of his works include
the long poem
On Ben Peleh
(“Strength, Son of Wonder,” trans­
lated by Victor E. Reichert and Moses Zalesky, Jerusalem, 1963)
and the poetic novel
Storm over Galilee
(translated by Batya
Rabin, London, 1967). He has rendered Shakespeare’s sonnets
into Hebrew.
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*
PO LA R IT Y IN HEBREW PO ETR Y
Modern Hebrew poetry moves strangely between the poles of
messianic hope and metaphysical despair. There is dream and
* Reprinted w ith permission from
Th e Jerusalem Post Magazine,
April 27,
1973.