Page 66 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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58
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
literature continued to invent ra the r than represent geographical
or topographical verities about Palestine.
From the instant the halutzim encoun te red the Holy Land
in the 1880s, with the first o f the waves o f aliyah, classical con­
vention o f necessity became obsolete. T h e poetry o f the Second
Aliyah (1905-1917) began to reveal a correspondence with ex­
perience ra th e r than with established general form. T h e newly
arrived pioneer-poets were able at last to write abou t the reality
o f the Holy Land: at last observed, touched and smelt, it was
transm itted to the readers in all its sensuous materiality, in
which the fabled cedars o f Lebanon are scarcely mentioned.
The method o f close observation ra th e r than prescribed con­
vention as a spu r for lite ratu re b rough t the Hebrew poets o f
the early 20th century within the ambit o f Eu ropean Roman­
ticism. W ithout being in the mainstream o f cu r ren t Eu ropean
cultural movements the p ioneering writers were both expressing
and acting upon the sensibility embodied in the Romantic move­
ment; in a world open ing to modernism they were late Roman­
tics, living ou t the popu lar prerequisites o f the Romantic life.
In keeping with the claims o f the genre they had been motivated
and justified by ex trao rd inary political events and social issues.
At last the Jewish writers were able to relate the business o f
practical life to the creation o f literature , and at last they wrote
o f the ir own experience.
FACING REALITY
While the excitement o f the p ioneer-poet’s encoun te r with
Palestine, both physical and metaphysical, is overwhelming in
the poetry o f the first two decades o f the 20th century, there
were a few d iscordant themes. One o f the recu rring cliches as­
sociated with the literature o f the first th ree aliyot and later
is that o f “dream and reality.” This phrase has assumed a d if­
fe ren t and highly politicized connotation altogether in the p res­
en t Israeli context, bu t regard ing the early years o f this century
it means exclusively the contrast between the expectations o f
the Holy Land on the pa r t o f the halutzim and the reality o f
their situation af te r arriving in Palestine. In David Patterson ’s
graphic formulation, “writer af te r writer left the shores o f Eu­
rope in search o f
Eretz Yisrael,
only to find themselves in Pal­