Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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In Amichai’s mythologization of experience the generation that
did or did not do its duty is summarized according to similarly
elemental criteria. The “duty” and its realization therefore be­
comes more obscure, less historically founded and less identifiable.
The poem that formally, at least, appears to be a diachronic survey
of the post-1948 generation is, in fact, an abstract restatement
of the principles that have inspired Amichai’s poetry all along.
War in Amichai’s later poetry is, then, no longer the metaphor
for God’s absence but for the act of remembering, for memo-
rialization and for the idea of youth of which Dickie is the et­
ernal symbol. It is also a means of clarifying instantly recog­
nizable experience without revealing too much of the self. War
has taught the speaker the art of survival as an individual and
perhaps as an artist, utilizing the terms of war and battle, notably
the art of camouflage. The technique of war becomes internal­
ized; deception and dissimulation provide the security for the
self, external appearance convincingly masks the interior life.
...Above all I’ve learnt the art o f camouflage,
not to stand out, not to be recognized,
not to be distinguished from my surroundings
nor from my love,
to be thought of as a bush or a sheep,
a tree, a tree’s shadow,
a doubt, a shadow of a doubt,
a living fence, a dead stone,
a house, a corner o f a house.22
The camouflage of the self is ultimately provided by dissem­
bling: the poetic spokesman is not the poet, despite the few
verifiable autobiographical facts in the long poetic narrative.
A life has been transformed into a sustained poetic myth which
by extension provides the broad outlines of a generation’s his­
tory. By equipping them with a poetic mask constructed of re­
peated themes and tropes, the poet’s real self and his real mem­
ories are intact, they remain his own, unsullied by external for­
ces, comments or contradictions. The autobiographical register
of Amichai’s poetry provides the precise or “ordered” frame­
work. The commonality of an uncommon autobiography (es­
cape from the Nazis, wars) is consoling, for within it the in­
dividual is able to confront his own unshared experiences, and
evaluate his own singular life and its real memories.
Gam ha-egrof,
p. 16.