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Itzik Manger, Foigelman and the Problem of the Antihero

Itzik Manger, Foigelman and the Problem of the Antihero Abstract: In this paper we focus on aspects of Aharon Megged's ambivalence in his depiction of the "bird-man," Shmuel "Foigelman" (literally: "birdman"), a Yiddish poet in Israel of the 1980s, and Foigelman's relationship with the sabra historian, Tsvi Arbel. We first take up a comparison of bird symbolism in the work of a Yiddish poet admired by Megged, Itzik Manger, a poet for whom bird symbolism was extremely important, with the bird symbolism in Megged's parodic novel. The comparison provides corroborative internal evidence for the intuitive assessment by critics that Megged has unwittingly produced a caricature of what Yiddish poetry was in its heyday. It is further posited that Megged's penchant for focusing on the antihero was bound to yield this kind of portrayal. The history of Megged's treatment of Yiddish themes in his fiction and publicistics shows this interest to be part and parcel of Megged's obsessive dealing with and guilt about problems related to the Shoah. We discuss specific examples of Megged's hypothesis—in both his earlier publicistics and in Foigelman—that the loss of Yiddish represents the loss of elements of Jewish "soul." The last section of the paper details the manner in which the theatrical adaptation of Foigelman by Zeʾev Falk in 1991 amplified to good effect features of the novel that were grotesque, macabre, and Kafkaesque. We suggest that Megged's realistic writing; his unwitting reduction to parody of "bird hermeneutics"; his vacillation between idealizing antiheroic and traditional native Israeli "positive hero" models; and his entire absorption in a unique kind of socio-linguistic musing about Yiddish versus Hebrew, with its substratum of guilt surrounding the Shoah, produced the complex fictional product that is Foigelman , and militated against its being fully understood and acclaimed. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Hebrew Studies National Association of Professors of Hebrew

Itzik Manger, Foigelman and the Problem of the Antihero

Hebrew Studies , Volume 43 (1) – Oct 5, 2002

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Publisher
National Association of Professors of Hebrew
Copyright
Copyright © National Association of Professors of Hebrew
ISSN
2158-1681
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Abstract

Abstract: In this paper we focus on aspects of Aharon Megged's ambivalence in his depiction of the "bird-man," Shmuel "Foigelman" (literally: "birdman"), a Yiddish poet in Israel of the 1980s, and Foigelman's relationship with the sabra historian, Tsvi Arbel. We first take up a comparison of bird symbolism in the work of a Yiddish poet admired by Megged, Itzik Manger, a poet for whom bird symbolism was extremely important, with the bird symbolism in Megged's parodic novel. The comparison provides corroborative internal evidence for the intuitive assessment by critics that Megged has unwittingly produced a caricature of what Yiddish poetry was in its heyday. It is further posited that Megged's penchant for focusing on the antihero was bound to yield this kind of portrayal. The history of Megged's treatment of Yiddish themes in his fiction and publicistics shows this interest to be part and parcel of Megged's obsessive dealing with and guilt about problems related to the Shoah. We discuss specific examples of Megged's hypothesis—in both his earlier publicistics and in Foigelman—that the loss of Yiddish represents the loss of elements of Jewish "soul." The last section of the paper details the manner in which the theatrical adaptation of Foigelman by Zeʾev Falk in 1991 amplified to good effect features of the novel that were grotesque, macabre, and Kafkaesque. We suggest that Megged's realistic writing; his unwitting reduction to parody of "bird hermeneutics"; his vacillation between idealizing antiheroic and traditional native Israeli "positive hero" models; and his entire absorption in a unique kind of socio-linguistic musing about Yiddish versus Hebrew, with its substratum of guilt surrounding the Shoah, produced the complex fictional product that is Foigelman , and militated against its being fully understood and acclaimed.

Journal

Hebrew StudiesNational Association of Professors of Hebrew

Published: Oct 5, 2002

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