We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers by Haim Chertok

By Haim Chertok

A suite of conversations, held over a interval of 5 years, among Chertok (an American-born author who has lived in Israel in view that 1977) and eighteen prime Israeli authors. They discuss literature, modern Zionism, the trap of Diaspora, girls in Israel, the Palestinians, and Judaism's reliable, cultural, and spiritual faces. a very good composite portrait of up to date Israel and an illuminating view of the writers' own types and ideology.

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It did not come off very well. In the end I wasn't sure where to pin the blame: on the poet or on the translator. TC: Peter Everwine, the American poet, did the translation. There is a real problem with Zach's poetry. It's hard to render the charged flatness of the original, the playfulness with the colloquial diction. HC: It's just the opposite with Amichai's poetry. He translates without apparent loss or effort. Tell me, how professionally significant is it for an Israeli poet to be translated and published internationally?

My father is Bernard Charny, an Orthodox rabbi and educator. He and my brother made aliya [emigration to Israel] after I came. My brother is now a clinical psychologist at Tel Aviv University. He was the organizer of the recently held Israel Genocide Conference. HC: You, Yehuda Amichai, Amir Gilboa, the others who fought in 1948 are inevitably viewed as members of a particular, very special generation. How do you perceive the difference in sensibility, in outlook, or even in technique between yourselves and the generation of poets now in their thirties and forties, most of whom seem to be based in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem?

As I have mentioned, I was very conscious of the need to confront my past, to investigate through language and literature what it means to be a Jew. I started to write in order to make discoveries about myself. That is still the case. And I'll tell you the truth: writing saved me! Page 18 HC: From what? AA [smiling]: Just that. It saved me. You know that the assimilated Jews of Central Europe had tried to escape from themselvesjust like Otto Weiniger [Austrian psychologist, 1880-1903] in Nefesh Yehudi [The Soul of the Jew, by Yehoshua Sobel], the play Israel sent recently to the Edinburgh Festival.

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