Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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O f course, there is no universal Jew. Bialik was a very individual
p roduc t o f South-Russian Jewry (the Kiev-Odessa area), blessed
with a gift o f expression so rich that the scholar-critics are only
now beginning to understand its complexities. As Professor Nevo
puts it: . . the major poet o f the Hebrew renaissance,” he “was
also the poet o f its most radical conflicts. Exile and re tu rn , past
and present, the private springs o f creative contemplation and
the exigencies and dem ands o f public life, the transcenden t and
the natural, sacred and sexual love, the losing and the finding o f
the self — such contraries and dualities imp rin t the ir ambiva­
lences o f love and hate upon every word he wrote . . .” These
riches present a problem even for the sophisticated Hebrew
reader; how much more so for the one who comes to him in Eng­
lish — like one, in Bialik’s well known phrase, “who kisses his
m o the r’s face th rough a veil.”
My title, therefore, has a double focus: we now have ano ther
English version — o f ano ther Bialik who has emerged in Israel
du r ing the last th ree decades. One reason fo r Nevo’s happy suc­
cess has been that she has so well conveyed a younger generation’s
“new criticism” o f Bialik’s poetry.
It has been something o f a scandal that Israel has not yet been
able to produce a definitive edition, scholarly and complete, o f its
national poet — though now that lack is in process o f being
rectified.2 1 am not really competent to review the small library o f
criticism which has so far emerged; but it is striking that, with one
exception, all o f the Selected Bibliography listed by Nevo was
published since 1963 — and almost all o f it in Hebrew. In my
modest Bialik library, a tu rn ing point seems to have come in 1960,
when the Bialik Institute devoted its annua l volume
the twenty-fifth anniversary o f the poet’s death , to a collection o f
essays (edited by Avraham Kariv) devoted to Bialik and his works.
More recently, Haiyim Orlan edited
The Poetry of Ch.N. Bialik: An
Anthology o f Commentaries and Interpretations
(Dvir, 1971); Gershon
Shaked edited
Bialik: Critical Essays on His Works
(1974), which
2 A first volume (for the 1890-1898 years) has been edited by Dan Miron et al.,
and published by the Katz Institute for the Study o f Hebrew Literature (Tel
Aviv University, 1983, 428 pp.).