Page 149 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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humanism as a whole. Above all, it revealed a disjunction be­
tween the language and the national aspirations its use encoded.
Hebrew, so much a standard of the rebirth of the nation, was
used in all its biblical grandeur by a writer whose contents utterly
undermined its connotations of idealism and hope. Its value
as a badge of national identity was in a sense deconstructed
by its content.
There seems still to be something offensive to the critics about
a Jewish writer creating European literature in Hebrew. Even
Pagis is surprisingly tendentious with regard to Vogel’s envi­
ronment and possible influences. Others search eagerly in his
verse for any vestiges of Jewishness which, it seems, would le­
gitimize him. Robert Alter, exceptionally, writes of him:
Writing novels in Hebrew . . . was intertwined with the adoption
of a European mind-set in regard to . . . fundamental aspects
o f the conceptual world . .. But beyond such epistemological
categories modern Hebrew writers — perhaps more radically in
prose fiction than in poetry — were embarked on what was in
effect a transvaluation of Jewish values . . . . The Hebrew writers,
nurtured on the imaginative and philosophic literature o f mod­
ern Europe, very often came to see the world in perspective
sharply different from that of their forebears . . ,34
Yet this very perspec tive , which was acceptable in
Berdichevsky and Gnessin, was intolerable in Vogel, because
of the differences in the treatment by each of these writers of
Hebrew and of the Jewish tradition. This indicates that the crit­
ics saw Hebrew literature as part of a social-communal enter­
prise rather than as an autonomous art form, and a writer who
did not in some way serve or even refer to the community —
whether of purpose or people — was of no interest to it. Vogel
called for individuality of expression and it was precisely his
own individuality that most fiercely alienated his critics. It is
possible that had Vogel written in German he would have been
counted among the mainstream poets of his day, whether Ex­
pressionist or late Romantic. However, he remains within the
history of Hebrew poetry as a second-rater, even in the views
of our contemporary critics, and despite the attempts by Pagis,
Zach, Dan Miron and Gabriel Moked to rescue his reputation.
Shlomo Grodzinsky confirms that there has been a deliberate
34. Robert Alter,
op. cit.,