Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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72
JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
includes about a dozen essays published before 1960; and in
1975, the annual volume o f the Agudat Hasoferim Haivrim
B’yisrael,
Meassef
(edited by Hillel Barzel and Menachem
Michelson, Masada, 367 pp.) was devoted to new
Essays on Chaim
Nachman Bialik.
W ithout p re tend ing to scholarly precision, I suppose tha t
Bialik criticism m ight be divided into th ree main generations:
first, Bialik’s contemporaries, including such a collaborator as
Joseph Klausner, Shlomo Zemach, and Yaakov Fichman (who
wrote the introduction to the only a ttem p t at a complete, one-
volume edition — Dvir, 1938); second, an in termed ia te
generation , including such figures as Dov Sadan, Ben-Zion
Benshalom, Simon Halkin, and culm inating in the major bu t
uncompleted literary biography,
Bialik: His Life and Works
(1937-
), by Fishel Lachower— who also made the first collec­
tion o f Bialik’s
Letters
(1937-1939); and th ird , the post-War-of-
Independence generation , some o f whose views Nevo’s edition
epitomizes. A certain degree o f biographical and historical
detachmen t must result from the passing away o f those who knew
the poet personally; and as the “Palmach” generation m a tu red ,
the emphasis shifted from war o f survival to peace, from ideology
to aesthetics, from public life to privacy.
Thus , Nevo’s selections omit “T h e City o f Slaughter,” “Surely
the People is Grass,” and similar poems on the bo rder between
“prophecy” and publicist responses to historic events — though
the b rief and powerful “On the S laughter” is included. As Nevo
tells us, her bias was towards the poems o f Bialik’s “private exp res­
sions and nostalgias, . . . his discovery o f death-in-life, and the
absence o f God”; and some o f her most moving pages are also
from Bialik’s poetry o f orphanhood : the early “My Song” — and
the poems o f remembrance written shortly before his dea th: “My
Fa the r” and “Parting” (in the latter, the old poet recalls the six-
year-old boy sent by his widowed m o ther to stay with his g rand fa ­
ther).
TRANSLATION PROBLEM
To “rep resen t” Bialik is especially difficult because he was so
quintessentially typical (and individual) in everything he wrote
and said, and his styles were so pure. Take him ou t o f his context
and language and rhythms, and he may begin to seem a bit pale