Iden­ti­ty and Mod­ern Israeli Literature

Risa Domb
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

This tight­ly-woven series of essays is designed to expose the atti­tudes of var­i­ous Israeli fic­tion writ­ers on the issues of lan­guage, ide­ol­o­gy, mem­o­ry, cul­tur­al and nation­al iden­ti­ty.” Domb address­es each con­cept indi­vid­u­al­ly and ulti­mate­ly con­cludes that imag­i­na­tive lit­er­a­tures, col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty, and the strug­gle for Jew­ish iden­ti­ty are inex­tri­ca­bly linked.

Imag­i­na­tive lit­er­a­tures writ­ten in Hebrew, Domb argues, reflect the lim­i­ta­tions of the lan­guage as well as a con­flict of ide­olo­gies. The writ­ers about whom she speaks are, in her words, pre­oc­cu­pied” by ques­tions of their iden­ti­ty as Israelis. Still, the cul­ture, the reli­gion, the com­mon lan­guage, and the his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ences, Domb con­tends, give rise to shared (Jew­ish) memories.” 

In her essay enti­tled The Poet­ics of Unsay­ing,” for instance, Domb con­sid­ers Appelfeld’s works life writ­ing,” as he seeks post-Holo­caust lan­guage to explain the unex­plain­able. In Cross­ing Bor­ders,” Domb insists that A.B. Yehoshua’s nov­els illus­trate his desire to blend cul­tures and encour­age co-exis­tence. In The Lone­li­ness of the Wan­der­ers,” Domb exam­ines the works of Sami Michael, an Ori­en­tal Jew, whose nov­els expose the iden­ti­ty crises of Arab Jews liv­ing in Israel. 

Beyond the issues in which Domb grounds her essays, the com­par­isons in this col­lec­tion are pre­cise­ly drawn and easy to follow. 

Malv­ina D. Engel­berg, an inde­pen­dent schol­ar, has taught com­po­si­tion and lit­er­a­ture at the uni­ver­si­ty lev­el for the past fif­teen years. She is a Ph.D. can­di­date at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Miami.

Discussion Questions