Trends in Israeli Literature
June Rodil
Rachel Eccleston
Pre-State of Israel Literature
Background
• Hasidism (Roughly 18
Century)
• Largely Inspired by Eastern European Jews
• Focused on Spirituality & Prayer with Aim of Moral Teaching
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• Haskalah (Roughly 19
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Century)
• “Hebrew Enlightenment”
• Move towards the importance of Reason
• Jewish Literary/Cultural Entrance into European
Society/Civilization
• Neo-Biblical Style– Limited Vocabulary (~5,000 words)
Into the 20th Century- WWI
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• Beginnings of Unity of Language
• Expansion of Hebrew Vocabulary
• Flexibility of Themes– “Hebrew Romanticism?”
Pre-State of Israel Literature
o Major contemporary spiritual concerns
o loss of tradition, faith, and identity
o inner uncertainties
o tragedy and the grotesque
o Conflict between traditional Jewish
life/language and the modern world
o Immigrant writers
o Novels, short stories, poetry
Pre-State of Israel Authors
• Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
• The Bridal Canopy (1931)
• Yesteryear (1945)
• Hayyim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934)
• Poems (1901)
• Poems (1908)
• Yosef Haim Brenner (1881-1921)
• In Winter (1904)
• Breakdown and Bereavement (1920)
1940s & 1950s: War of
Independence Generation
• Conflicted between individualism and commitment to
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society and State
Social realism
“Palmach Generation”
Writers involved in war directly
Influenced “heroic mold” called for by times
Starting point of Hebrew/Israeli literary and cultural
activity
Relationship between person and space, countrymen
and the Land of Israel
Stream of Consciousness
Novels, essays, novellas, poetry
1940s & 1950s Authors
• S. Yizhar (1916-)
• Days of Ziklag (1958)
• Midnight Convoy (1950)
• Haim Gouri (1923-) “Israel’s Poet”
• Flowers of Fire, Years of Fire (1949)
• Poems of the Seal (1954)
• Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)
• Now and in Other Days (1955)
1960s & 1970s: The Generation of
the State
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followed less ideological patterns
wrote more about the individual
psychological realism, allegory and symbolism
speculation and skepticism regarding conventions
Searching for “real individual” rather than conceptual
ideal
Reaching out to Jewish Diaspora rather than just State of
Israel
Existentialist struggle
Fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry, drama
Works translated into languages other than
Hebrew/Aramaic
1960s & 1970s Authors
• Amos Oz (1939-)
• My Michael (1968)
• The Hill of Evil Counsel (1976)
• Avraham B. Yehoshua (1936-)
• The Death of the Old Man (1962)
• An Evening in May (1975)
• Yehoshua Kenaz (1937-)
• After the Holidays (1964)
• The Great Woman of the Dreams (1973)
1980s & 1990s
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Explosion of literary activity
Focus moves toward audience and individual and away from author
Holocaust
Detective Fiction, Suspense, Humor, Romance, Graphic Novels and
Children’s Literature Genres Develop
• Emergence of women authors
• General Topics
• Women’s Role in Jewish Tradition and Zionists Enterprise
• Emerging themes
• Arab-Christian Writers
• The Ultra Orthodox World
• Jerusalem’s Hassidic Courts
• The Place of Immigrants from Arab Countries
• Democracy & Righteousness During Constant Challenges
1980s & 1990s Authors
• Aharon Appelfeld (1932-)
• At One and the Same (1985)
• Lost (1995)
• David Grossman (1954-)
• The Smile of the Lamb (1983)
• The Book of Intimate Grammar (1991)
• Savyon Liebrecht (1948)
• Apples From the Desert (1986)
• It’s All Greek to Me, He Said to Her (1992)
Late 1990s & The New
Millennium: The Post-Zionists
• Younger Writers with universalistic themes
• Alienation, Surrealism, Idiosyncrasies
• Shift to Less Spiritual Concerns– The Good
Life and the Pursuit of Happiness
• Anarchic, Nihilistic, Iconoclastic
• A More “European” Approach in Literary
Style
The Post-Zionist Authors
• Etgar Keret (1967-)
• The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God &
Other Stories (2001)
• Pizzeria Kamikaze (2004)
• Esty G. Hayim (1963-)
• Our Second Life (1999)
• Something Good Will Happen Tomorrow (2003)
• Alex Epstein (1971-)
• The Mountaineer’s Beloved (1999)
• The Odyssey (2001)
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