And This Is The Light

Lea Gold­berg; Bar­bara Har­shav, trans.

  • Review
By – November 1, 2011

This is a ban­ner year for Lea Gold­berg, who died in 1970 and would be one hun­dred years old today. Gold­berg, one of the clas­sic Israeli poets of the mod­ern era, is well known to Eng­lish read­ers through the work of many dif­fer­ent trans­la­tors. Gold­berg is not as well known as a nov­el­ist, but Bar­bara Har­shav has pub­lished a new trans­la­tion of her nov­el And This Is the Light, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Hebrew in 1946. This trans­la­tion, pub­lished by Toby Press, serves as a fit­ting com­pan­ion to their oth­er fine Gold­berg pub­li­ca­tion, Select­ed Poet­ry and Dra­ma by Lea Gold­berg, poet­ry trans­lat­ed by Rachel Tzvia Back and dra­ma by T. Car­mi. This semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal nov­el was not well received when it was first pub­lished, but with renewed inter­est in Goldberg’s com­plete oeu­vre the pub­li­ca­tion in Eng­lish of this neglect­ed nov­el is time­ly. Goldberg’s spare style of lan­guage, famil­iar to stu­dents of her poet­ry, is evi­dent in this nov­el as well. Part­ly a com­ing-of-age sto­ry, and part­ly a sto­ry of strug­gling with iden­ti­ty and anti-Semi­tism in Lithua­nia in 1931, the nov­el express­es Goldberg’s ambiva­lence about her own sense of belong­ing. This rich and lyri­cal nov­el is worth a read pure­ly on its own mer­its. The lan­guage feels alive and sup­ple, a trib­ute to Harshav’s care­ful trans­la­tion. Yet And This Is the Light is also an impor­tant piece of Israeli his­to­ry, one of the first Hebrew nov­els writ­ten by a woman.

Hara E. Per­son was ordained by Hebrew Union Col­lege-Jew­ish Insti­tute of Reli­gion. She is a writer and editor.

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