Israel Literature from 1948 to 21st Century

By | December 22, 2021

From 1948 to the 1980s

The proclamation of the state (1948) conventionally marks the beginning of this literature, although its peculiar style and its imprint can be found in the writings of well-known authors, such as S. Yizhar, already in the previous decade. It is customary to divide this production into 3 cultural currents, linked to as many historical periods (generations).

1.1 Generation of the war of liberation The inspiring motifs are the war of 1948 and the representation of collective life in the kibbutzs. Strong is the influence of Soviet literary realism. The novel that characterizes this current is Hū Hālākh baśādōt (“He went to the fields”, 1947) by M. Shamir, in which the contrast between the young and strong Jew belonging to a kibbut and the image of the Jew of the diaspora is evident. A. Meged, H. Bartov, B. Tammuz belong to this current, which expresses the Zionist-socialist ideal . and the aforementioned Yizhar. The latter analyzes in some of his short stories the trauma suffered by those Jews forced to realize their national ideals with the force of arms. Among the poets of this address, there are A. Gilboa, H. Guri and A. Kovner, whose poetics have as recurring theme the tragedy of the holocaust. For Israel 2008, please check

1.2 Generation of the State Made up of a group of young people who, around the 1960s, developed new themes with contrasting characteristics, detaching themselves from the literary expression aimed at enhancing the national data. In their works they analyze the individual and his existential solitude, drawing inspiration from the literary production of Western Europe, especially A. Camus and F. Kafka. Among the most important exponents, Y. Amihai, A. ‛Oz, A. Kahana-Carmon and AB Yehoshua. Above all in the initial production of the latter the symbolic and grotesque factor emerges, free from certain temporal and spatial references. An accentuated introspective research characterizes this current, in which D. Avidan, D. Pagis, N. Zach stand out. and Y. Amihai. In contrast to the previous generation, which was inspired by the Eastern European formalists, these poets are linked to the models of Western Europe, in particular TS Eliot and RM Rilke.

1.3 Generation of young people In the following decades there is a growing attention to the surrounding reality, but not to exalt it, but to note the growing ideological crisis that raises dramatic questions. Writers of previous generations also propose new novels at the end of the 1970s that deal with the present with an acute critical spirit. The changed political situation induces to focus the narrative around a specific theme, that concerning the Arabs who live among the Jews of Israel. Thus the novel Ha-mĕ’ahēv (“The lover”, 1977) by AB Yehoshua describes the 1973 war and places an Arab citizen of Israel among the protagonists, and the novel Ḥīyūkh ha-gĕdī (1983; trans. It. The Smile of the Lamb, 1994) by D. Grossman outlines the situation of the occupied territories. As for the lyric, the poetess Y. Wallach and M. Wieselter emerge. Literary production denotes a luxuriant vitality and tends to go beyond the narrow national sphere to range and reconnect with the cultural currents of Western Europe and the USA.

From the 20th to the 21st century

Israeli literature, which experienced a renewed creative impetus with the novel by Y. Shabtai Zikron devarim (1977; trad. It. Inventario, 1994), in the 1990s was the subject of a real discovery by Italian publishing. In fact, the entire translated work is available from the most famous writers. This is the case of the aforementioned Yehoshua, who alongside his vast fictional production is accompanied by a rich non-fiction production. He consolidated his fame ‛Oz, who in Lada‛at isha (1989; trans. It. Knowing a woman, 1992) addressed the themes of love and family relationships, further explored in subsequent novels. Also by Grossman, which he experienced instant success with ‛Ayen‛ erek ahava (1986; transl. It. See under love, 1988), many novels have been translated. Innovative and open to dialogue with the Arabs is Y. Kaniuk who, in addition to numerous novels (Adam ben kelev, 1969, trans. It. Risen Adam, 1995; Aravī tov, 1984, trans. It. Confessions of a good Arab, 1997), he wrote together with the Palestinian A. Ḥabībī La terre des deux promesses, published in France (1996). Some authors of the Jewish communities from the Muslim world have come to the attention of the public at home: S. Michael; S. Ballas; D. Benaya Seri; E. Amir and the poet E. Biton. Within the so-called postmodernist current, in addition to Grossman, there are among others: A. Appelfeld (Katerine, 1992; trans. It. My name is Caterina, 1994); Y. Hoffmann (Kristus shel dagim, 1988; trans. It. Christ of the fishes, 1993); the Arab A. Shammas, who writes in Hebrew (‛Arabesqot, 1988; trad. it. Arabeschi, 1990); D. Schutz; S. Liebrecht, author of the short story A room on the roof, published in the collection Tapuḥim min ha-midbar (1986; transl. It. Apples from the desert, 2001), which expresses the impossibility of an encounter between the Israeli and Palestinian realities through the events of an Arab bricklayer and a young Israeli woman; Israel Levy (b. 1956). The Arab-Israeli conflict takes on surreal connotations in E. Keret ‘s novel Ha-qaytana shel Kneller (” Kneller ‘s holiday resort”, 2001). The formation of the State of Israel is illustrated through 3 generations in the novel Roman Rusi (1986; it. And the desert will bloom, 1990) by M. Shalev, who also wrote Esaw (1991; it. The bread of Sarah, 2000), a family saga centered around a female figure. Among the writers stand out, in addition to the aforementioned Liebrecht, H. Bat Shahar, belonging to an ultra-religious community; the poetesses A. Hess, originally from Iraq, charged with vibrant mystical sensitivity, and M. Bajarano; Z. Shalev, who achieved notoriety with the novel Ḥayye ahava (2000; trans. It. An intimate relationship, 2000). Among the youngest stand out: Y. Katzir, with the novel Le Matisse yesh et ba-shemesh ba-beṭen («Matisse has the sun in her belly», 1995); Y. Hedaya, with Sheloshā sippiay ahava (“Three love stories”, 1997), and D. Rabinyan, who made his debut with Simṭat ha-shqediyya be-Omerijan (1995; trans. It. Persian brides, 2000), in which he narrates the life of a village in Iran, and in particular of its feminine universe. Emblematic of the Italian interest in Israeli literature was the role of guest of honor reserved for Israel in the 2008 edition of the Turin Book Fair.

Israel Literature from 1948 to 21st Century