Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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Earlier poets had written o f memory bu t none had described
a physical re tu rn to the ir birthplaces. T h e forsaken birthplace
in Pagis’ poem is viewed in all its reality while the diaspora
homes o f the o the r poets carry the gloss o f fiction overlaid by
the Romantic convention o f remembering th rough nature .
Pagis’ poem is a paradigm o f many tha t trea t the theme o f com­
pulsive memory, offering at least one depiction o f the end o f
the jou rney as it describes the need o f the jou rney itself:
Why should I struggle.
I won’t overcome myself. I returned in error
But I found that it was intentional.
Without mercy I ’m sentenced to act.
I t ’s already day, soon they will see me living.
Why did I bring with me
These eyes of mine from hell?
This poem suggests that because memory in its alteration be­
comes a questionable witness to past events, it is to be renewed
by the encoun te r with the towns and villages in which the events
are concretized. The longing in the poetry o f Amichai and
Goldberg exemplified both in na tu re and in cityscapes is trans­
formed to d read when Pagis’ town’s buildings are seen to em ­
body pa r t o f the “hell” which the speaker has come home to
confron t and perhaps reclaim. The pastoral sunshine is e te r­
nally transmu ted to darkness and night and natu re is demonized
by the unnatura l.
It appears unlikely tha t the next poetic generation will reflect
any form o f biradicalism. Tuvia Riibner, like Amichai born in
Germany, describes a jou rney du ring which he took his young
children on a nostalgic visit to his own German birthplace.21
T he ch ild ren ’s reaction is one o f boredom and some impatience,
indicating that they are the generation to whom the Israeli land ­
scape is the only real landscape, and for whom there is no longer
a basis for nostalgia o r comparison. Perhaps to them the mem­
ory o f the past will again be historical o r collective ra th e r than
personal; o r perhaps the presen t “Israeli d iaspora” will again
emphasize the Jewish distinction o f “being elsewhere” and main­
tain the great vice and great secret virtue o f the Jews, as de ­
lineated by Peguy.
21. Riibner, Tuvia, “Sham, Amarti,” in Carmi, T., ed.,
The Penguin Book of
Hebrew Verse.
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1981, p. 567.