Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
In an excellent review in
TheJerusalem Post
(June 26, 1981 — “A
Modern Bialik”), Lois Bar-Yakov compares Nevo’s “On My
R e tu rn” with an earlier version o f “Bi-teshuvati” by Snowman. In
this impo rtan t early poem, the rhymes (some o f them internal)
are significant; as R iibner writes, “Repetitiousness is the dom i­
n an t structural fea tu re o f this poem o f repetitious re tu rn .” Nevo,
I agree, has p roduced a good, strong poem; and the p a tte rn o f
repe tition is well used in her first two stanzas. T he question, as
Bar-Yakov phrases it, is precisely: what is “the intent o f the
poem?” She feels in it an “extremity o f em o tion” — with which I
should not quarrel; and Riibner feels tha t “the last two lines
enforce the
tragedy
in identifying the speaker with all tha t he
abhors” (p. 21, my italics).
But, as I read this poem aloud with Bialik’s meter, I canno t help
feeling also a tone which is grimly satirical, to which the fem inine
rhymes th roughou t are peculiarly app rop ria te . I am still not sure
why the “swollen fly corpses” should be in the “
west
co rne r” (that’s
the Hebrew rhym ing word, which Snowman’s 1948 version
ignores) — some satiric point? Efros in his anthology wrote: “Most
o f the versions are entirely new o r greatly revised”; and
Snowman, in revising, seems to me to have taken some o f the
spirit out o f the poem. In fact, I p re fe r his 1926 version (in which
“the western co rne r” is preserved) for its lightness o f touch. It
ends:
You have not changed, you're antic old,
There's nothing new I think;
Friends, let me join your club, we’ll rot
Together till we stink.
T h e re is indeed ironic force in the th ird line here, which Nevo
rend e red as “I ’ll jo in you, old cronies!”— and I concur with Bar-
Yakov in disliking Snowman’s later “silent conclave” (much too
solemn). But: “Friends (or Brethren?), let me jo in your club”
seems to me to strike ju s t the righ t note.
Not, and here I agree with Nevo, tha t this earliest o f the ver­
sions should have rema ined last in tha t “two-way process” o f
translation “which does no t end ” with any single book (p. xvi). In
effect, then , we have fou r versions — two by Snowman, a literal
one by Riibner, and Nevo’s — each giving a d iffe ren t flavor to the
VARYING VERSIONS