With This Night

Lea Gold­berg; Annie Kan­tar, 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. With This Night, Annie Kantar’s new vol­ume of trans­la­tions is a wel­come addi­tion to the array of Gold­berg trans­la­tions, espe­cial­ly because this is the final col­lec­tion of Goldberg’s poems pub­lished while she was alive, and thus less famil­iar than some of her oth­er poems. These poems are full of entic­ing con­trasts: night and morn­ing, sea and land, youth and age, there and here. In these jux­ta­po­si­tions there is a sense of being on the edges, or con­stant­ly in tran­si­tion, in a state of in between. In Songs of the Strange Woman” she writes, I’m from there — /​the vil­lage of small winds…” and con­tin­ues in the sec­ond sec­tion of the poem, “…on what shore did the gulls call/​the name of my dead coun­try?” She places her­self ever on the mar­gins — an inte­gral part of Israel and yet always from there,” about to start a new day, and yet still in the night that pre­cedes the com­ing day. At the same time there is a sense of rich matu­ri­ty, an arch to the poems that hints at the poet’s stage in life, a clar­i­ty of vision devel­oped over many years of expe­ri­ences. Kantar’s trans­la­tion cap­tures the chis­eled clar­i­ty of Goldberg’s Hebrew as she evokes the stark­ness of the poet’s Israel. These trans­la­tions echo Goldberg’s decep­tive sim­plic­i­ty while man­ag­ing to con­vey the depth of her images and inten­si­ty of her language.

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

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