Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
IRONIC USAGE
Th e device o f draw ing on a pastoral mode which is then bit­
terly denounced is not new to Pagis’ generation. In “T aha t shen
m aharash tam ” (Unde r the Too th o f T h e ir Plough”) 18 Uri Zvi
G reenberg portrays the beautiful Polish countryside in trad i­
tionally pastoral terms: “Again the snows have melted there . . . /
[The farmers] have gone to plough the ir fields there . . . / Again
spring is in the landscape: bulbs and lilac and twittering birds/
Herds lie down by the shining stream o f shallow waters . . . ”
This is reminiscent o f the maskilic evocation o f a pastoral haven.
Yet the Polish farmers are “m u rde re rs now,” the fields they
plough are “my graveyard’s fields,” and the beautiful spring
will greet no more Jews. A lthough the summer will grow fat
and fru itfu l the Jews will not share in it. T h e poem ends harshly
with the description o f the idyllic spring which is the dom inion
o f the Christians alone, and which burgeons to conceal Jewish
graves.
The notion o f exile, however convoluted o r inverted, is always
implied by the need o f survivors to re tu rn . Israeli novelists and
poets, including Aharon Appelfeld, Yaakov Besser and Dan
Pagis have chronicled a real o r imagined re tu rn af te r the Hol­
ocaust to the locus o f childhood. Amichai, who was not a victim
but whose birthplace was destroyed, published a novel based
on his actual re tu rn to Wurzburg. The nostalgia for childhood
and the need to claim it from later atrocity overcome the im­
plications o f the jou rney which often recalls O rpheu s’ descent
into Hades, into a landscape o f death. According to Yaoz-Kest
the poetry o f re tu rn “is based on the obsessive need to re tu rn
even against the individual’s will.”19
Pagis describes an obsessive O rphean jou rney to a European
country town and the effect on his lyric spokesman o f familiar
landmarks.20
At the end of it all the humpbacked village remains
Beyond the years o f death, at night,
Remembering me faintly . . .
18. Greenberg, U.Z.,
Rehovot ha-Nahar.
Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv: Schocken,
1951, p. 279.
19. Yaoz-Kest, op. cit., p. 31.
20. Ibid.