This article charts the international reception of modern Hebrew literature over the last hundred years. It brings large-scale data on the translation of Hebrew literature into conversation with current studies on the dissemination of ‘small’ languages around the world. We pay special attention to publishing trends, genres, literary awards, and other indicators of international recognition. More broadly, we question the scope and definition of a body of literature whose ancient traces have become invisible through translation and whose international readership includes, to some extent, members of its ‘own’ nation who do not share, however, the same language, territory, or cultural experiences. Our goal is to provide a more nuanced understanding of the presence of Hebrew literature beyond its national borders.
Translation and Reception, 1918–2018
Yael Halevi-Wise and Madeleine Gottesman
Reflections on the Balfour Declaration Centennial and the Winding Road to Israeli Independence
Arie M. Dubnov
Revisiting the Balfour Declaration, this article offers a threefold argument: first, challenging those who read the Declaration as symbolizing a new dawn of Jewish political history, the article proposes an alternative reading that considers it as a continuation of familiar patterns of Jewish political behaviour based on the forging of ‘vertical alliances’. Second, it argues that this perspective led many Jews to treat the Declaration as an unsigned ‘contract’, and it was not until the 1940s, with the rise in popularity of a discourse concerning Britain’s ‘betrayal’, that this view began to be challenged. Third, explaining how and why the vertical alliance perspective was pushed to the margins of Israeli collective memory, the article looks at the rise of the ‘security paradigm’ in Hebrew literature and examines the ways in which the creation of a Jewish army was imagined as marking the end of old forms of Jewish politics.
Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny
This article discusses the place of Hebrew and Jewish images and stereotypes in the works of the Israeli-Arab Hebrew writer Sayed Kashua. When describing his Arab protagonists, Kashua portrays both the stereotype of the oppressed Diaspora Jew, who is trying to blend in and hide his identity, and the stereotype of the Israeli Jew, the image that many of Kashua's protagonists aspire to imitate. The article argues that adopting those images and stereotypes has a dual function. On the one hand, it can be understood as an attempt to imitate and internalize the majority's gaze, creating a sense of brotherhood and familiarity with Jewish-Israeli readers. On the other hand, the same images and stereotypes can be understood as having a major subversive thrust that ridicules the Jewish-Israeli identity and its perception of the Israeli-Arab and criticizes the Israelization process among Palestinian citizens of Israel. This subversive dimension, typical of Kashua's sarcastic style, becomes sharper in his more recent works.
Hebrew Literature and Christian Mission
In this article, I examine the character and reception of the Hebrew translations of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shakespeare’s Othello and Romeo and Juliet, Tiedge’s Urania, and the New Testament produced in the second half of the nineteenth century by Isaac Salkinson, a Jew converted to Christianity and employed as a missionary by the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews. I focus on a salient feature of these translations, that is the use of biblicizing techniques. In contrast to previous studies, I tie the production of all of Salkinson’s translations to his activity as a missionary.
Hebrew literature has always been inseparable from the national narrative. Public expectations from the writer have been extremely demanding: a writer must carry the national moral beacon. The effects of this demanding role can be easily recognized in current Hebrew literature. Few are those who ignore the call. Authors may opt for one of three alternatives: Alexander Penn's way, Natan Alterman's way, or Joseph Brenner's way. Penn's way entails direct public involvement embedded in literary works. Alterman's way means the separation between the 'public' and the 'private'. Brenner's way is the complex fusion of the 'public' and the 'private'. This last approach seems to have become the dominant one, with contemporary Hebrew literature and the state of the nation upholding and supporting each other.
This article deals with the relation of Micha Yosef Ben Gurion (Berdichevski)—one of the central formulators of the Zionist idea and of modern Hebrew literature—to the Zionist political sphere. As a wordly Jewish intellectual, Berdichevski attempted to establish a kind of Zionism that would allow Jewish individuals to engage in it as an act of their desires. In exploring how his carnal inclinations affected his vision of the political, I argue that Berdichevski's perception fails qualitatively by transposing its guiding sensual approach to the formulation of the new Jewish political sphere. As this article will show, Berdichevski's relation to the Jewish political revolution reveals a sometimes limited perception regarding the possibilities of freedom inherent in political activity and often contradicts his own aspiration to nurture the liberty of Jewish individuals.
Reading into Othello’s Indian/ Iudean Crux in the First Hebrew Translation
The first translation of Shakespeare’s Othello into Hebrew, Ithiel ha-Kushi mi-Vinez.ya, was published in 1874. The translation, by the Jewish convert to Christianity Isaac Edward Salkinson, was made following an explicit request by one of the most prominent figures of the late Hebrew Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), Peretz Smolenskin. I will examine how the two negotiated one of the most controversial cruxes in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. The crux, found in Othello’s final speech (5.2), reads in the First Quarto (1622) as ‘the base Indian’ who ‘threw a pearl away, / Richer than all his Tribe’, while in the First Folio (1623) it reads as ‘the base Iudean’. I will meditate on the Indian-Iudean crux, and offer a critical reading of Salkinson’s ‘solution’ and his ‘mistranslation’ of ‘pearl’ to ‘sapphire’ on the same line, in light of Smolenskin’s critique of Hebrew literature. In so doing, I will offer an understanding of the role of the Hebrew translator in their era and of translation in general.