Page 140 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

Basic HTML Version

pressionist movement, which more than any other anticipated
and revealed this unconscious, was, however, not dominated
by Jews.12 The emphasis on disintegrating reality and social
breakdown was as much the province of Expressionism as that
o f the increasingly deracinated European Jewish intellectuals.
It seems that Vogel was as much a victim of Jewish discon­
nectedness as of European dissolution. He wrote in Hebrew,
but his poetry bore only a notional relationship to Jewish history
or Judaism. The central paradox of his style is his usage of
biblical Hebrew to frame the utter modernity of his content.
If he is considered in the context of Modernist rather than He­
brew literature, of European mood and style rather than Jewish
culture, he finds a secure, if paradoxical place as a European
writer who wrote in Hebrew. At the same time, there are many
factors in Vogel’s life that are typical of the life of a Jewish
intellectual at that time, predominantly his rootlessness, detach­
ment and poverty. Yet even in his later poetry, when he con­
centrates increasingly on wandering and journeying, uprooted-
ness and displacement, he is reflecting a tendency of the Mod­
ernist — later called bohemian — aesthetic and, if he is referring
to himself at all, his personal experience as a stranger, as much
as a Jew, in a series of strange lands. Pagis contends that while
Vogel’s sense of estrangement has its source in a “specific Jewish
situation” which is not expressed explicitly in his verse, “only
12. Rupert Brooke writes o f the Cafe des Westens in Berlin:
Du lieber Gott!
Here I am, sweating, sick and hot,
And there the shadowed waters fresh
Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
German Jews
Drink beer around; and there the dews
Are soft between a morn o f gold . . .
The reference is to Expressionists whom Brooke encountered in Berlin
while dreaming o f Grantchester. The
Expressionist poets
were not, however, all Jews. See Edward Timms, “Expressionists and Geor­
Unreal City. Urban Experience in Modem Literature and Art.
New York:
St. Martins Press, 1985, 114.