Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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While the poetic impulse found ample expression in lamenta­
tion in Hebrew poetry, the need to record what happened and
preserve it for future generations seemed to find expression in
Israel in painstaking documentary research, the gathering o f his­
torical documents, testimonies, and records o f the events of the
Holocaust rather than in fictional forms. Fictional forms have not
been as abundant or prominent as the historical or poetical. Per­
haps this is so because fiction, more than any other literary form,
demands that the writer structure the terrible events. But to
structure means in the case of the Holocaust to somehow compre­
hend the incomprehensible. Perhaps, all one can do is to repeat,
catalog, declare the atrocities, but even such realism demands
structure. And as Dan Pagis has written, “at first the details
horrify/though in the end they bore.” “Even realism flounders
before such reality,” Sidra Ezrachi has pointed out.6 There are
also sociological reasons that Israelis have had difficulty imposing
fictional structures on the events of the Holocaust. On one hand,
it was too close, the shock too great. The horro r was rather trans­
lated into action to bring the survivors illegally to Israel. It fed the
outrage which, in turn, fueled the energies of nationbuilding. At
the same time, the new Jew in the land o f Israel had so negated
the Diaspora mentality that he had difficulty dealing with what
he saw “as Jews passively going to the slaughter.”
Nevertheless, with time, Israe li w riters, many o f them
survivors, have grappled with the terrible events attempting to
impose large, enduring forms upon the experience. Using a vari­
ety of fictional techniques, they have written fiction that is not
that different from the types of Holocaust fiction written outside
of Israel. There are the large historical panoramas o f Naomi
Frankl and Yona and Alexander Sened, the naturalistic “litera­
ture of nausea” of K. Tzetnick, the deformation of reality in
Yoram Kaniuk’s grotesque
Adam Resurrected,
the surrealistic
fictionalized memoir of Uri Orlev,
The Lead Soldiers,
the lyrical
realism of Itamar Yaoz-Kest’s biographically based fiction. In
many of these works, as in Yehuda Amichai’s novel,
Not o f This
Time, Not o f This Place
there is the Israeli who, in o rder to function
as an adult, must come to a resolution about the world o f his
childhood which the Holocaust disrupted or destroyed.
By Words Alone
(Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1980), p. 105.