Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
which was once the other side of the coin of love, for which
love was the antidote, is now recalled primarily as the terrain
of youth, in a nostalgic, even sentimental, evocation of youth
and courage.
This is set out in verse that through its almost constant first
person singular speaker and its recourse to personal experience
presupposes autobiography. In fact, it mimics autobiography
in its chronological and narrative continuity, an effect rein­
forced by Amichai’s declaration, “I have always written my life.”2
In respect of explicit autobiography his work is deceptive, for
while its composite effect is that of a coherent life history, it
consists more accurately of a selection of events from a life which
became the basic propositions upon which his entire literary
output is based. The events therefore become the symbolic land­
marks that explain or emphasize what the poet has deemed
pivotal areas in his life. On the other hand, Amichai has sug­
gested that all poetry is to an extent autobiographical, meaning
presumably that in its introspective intimacy it allows insight
into the mind and heart of the writer, rather than rendering
a biographical story. It is in this sense of fidelity to himself as
an artist that he has written his life. Indeed many elements of
“my life” and its
dramatis personae
are consistently present in
the poetry: exile from the birthplace, the young immigrant from
Germany, his parents, his early loves, his war, his city, his chil­
dren, all contributing to a critic’s assertion that “Amichai deals
with the ‘great,’ the ‘classical’ things: love, the passage of time
and of a man, youth, death, war, m em o ry . . .”3
The so-called “enterprise”4of the foundation of the State uni­
fied the many disparate biographies of members of Amichai’s
generation into one idealized biography whose broadest con­
tours encompassed their social and political situation and their
emotional maturation. Despite the apparent life story of an in­
dividual, Amichai’s narrative is a chronicle of the
communalized
participation in nation building, the postwar coming-to-terms,
the collective shock following the revelations about the Holo­
caust, and subsequent wars. His poetic response fuses to such
2. Dalia Karpel,
Mekaveh la-nobel
(Hoping for the Nobel Prize).
Ha’ir,
3-11-1989.
3. Tzvi Atzmon,
Yad Amichai ba-olam, Iton
77, January 1990, p. 23.
4.
Mifal,
a word with certain political overtones.