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Hebrew Writers and the(ir) European city: Poetic identity, languages, and urban thought in two novels by Lea Goldberg and David Vogel

Mon, December 17, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cambridge 2


Lea Goldberg and David Vogel spent a significant and formative time in the multicultural and multilingual cities Berlin and Vienna (respectively). The realm of the city is present in their poetry as well, but in Goldberg's Losses ('Avedot', 2010) and Vogel's Married Life ('Hayey Nisu'im', 1929-1931) the city plays a crucial part. Representations of Jewish life in the metropolis and a diverse usage of languages (German, Russian, Yiddish etc.) in these novels are not only driven by a forced lingual situation but also hold great poetic value. Building on the works of Hana Wirth-Nesher and Shachar Pinsker, who establish the importance of the urban European sphere for Hebrew modernism, this paper examines the ways in which the city, its residents and the urban spaces are used in those novels.
Moreover, the protagonists in these novels are two Hebrew writers suffering from a creative crisis: Elchanan Kron (Losses) is an Israeli-Hebrew poet visiting Berlin in 1932-1933, who wishes to express his complexed identity but fails to do so time and again. His attempts to write in Hebrew confronts the reader with the status of Hebrew as a Euroepan langaueg. Rudolph Gurdweill (Married Life) is a Jewish author who has been living in Vienna for 13 years after leaving his East-European home. I suggest reading his inability to write as part of the complexity of his situation as an outsider to any community.
In both cases, the figure of the writer presents the readers with new perspectives on the way in which the language, the poetic affiliation and the setting of the city produce a clear poetic and political standpoint. Furthermore, could the crisis be connected to the gap between the multilingual realm and the (mostly) monolingual nature of the novels?