Page 137 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ABRAMSON / POET OF THE DARK GATE
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as an enemy alien. On his release he returned to Vienna, later
married and in 1926 moved to Paris where he remained for
th ree years un til his b r ie f a ttem p t to live in Palestine
(1929-1930). After that he wandered for two years, earning his
keep as a Hebrew teacher and suffering from tuberculosis. With
the advent of the second World War, Vogel was again impris­
oned, this time by the French, as an enemy alien. After his
brief release he was caught and deported by the Nazis in 1944.
These events are not recounted factually in his poetry; the only
aesthetic mark they have left is an overriding awareness of per­
sonal poverty and barrenness, a sense of despair and an almost
nihilistic consciousness of the meaninglessness of life.
This sense was, however, not unique to Vogel but constituted
part of the aesthetic equipment of his contemporary European
artists during the interwar period. Intellectually, artistically and
geographically Vogel was living in the midst of the vast cultural
revolution that spanned Europe and later the USA. Whether
or not he was influenced by any of its trends is uncertain, but
there is no doubt that his poetry conformed in mood, theme
and style with much of the experimental writing of the time.
Yet his want of reference to the apocalyptic events of his time
and of his own life in all but a few of his poems, and his in­
frequent references to Jewish experience in his work give it
a un ique disconnectedness which rende rs it difficult to
contextualize. Poems written years apart and in different loca­
tions display little material variation.
CULTURAL INFLUENCES
Certain questions are suggested by the fluctuations in critical
response to Vogel since the 1920s. Did he, to any extent reveal
Judaic elements in his writing? What was the nature of his re­
ception and why was he so deeply disliked by his contemporary
critics, including some of the greatest and most discerning He­
brew literary figures of his day? Conjecture about influence is
dangerous but since Vogel did not mature in a cultural vacuum
— it may be enlightening to speculate about his artistic indebt­
edness. Robert Alter notes that while we know too little about
Vogel’s reading to postulate influence “[his] affinities in theme
and setting with a broad current of twentieth century European