Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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includes about a dozen essays published before 1960; and in
1975, the annual volume o f the Agudat Hasoferim Haivrim
(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
), by Fishel Lachower— who also made the first collec­
tion o f Bialik’s
(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 ­
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