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September 05, 1969 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-09-05

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Abraham Sutzkever's 'Quadrangular Letters' Lorch Presents Historic Facts
Commended by Reviewer Wolf Snyder in Israel's War of Independence


Sutzkever: "Quadrangular
Letters and Wonders." Poems. 196.1-
1967. Portrait of the Poet—by Marc
Chagall. Published in Israel by
Goldene Kelt.
• • •

"Quadrangular Letters and Won-
ders" by Abraham Sutzkever is- a
new and great addition to the treas-
ure of 'Yiddish poetry. It covers
a variety of themes and is written
in a variety of moods.
"Nothing is worth considering in
poetry but perfection," Baudelaire
once wrote to the publisher of his
book, "Fleurs du Mal." And it is
precisely his high degree of per-
fection (even perfection is achieved
by degrees) in language, rhythm
and harmony, that makes it pos-
sible for Sutzkever to express
poetically his experience and
moods and to evoke the same in
the reader.
Poems like "Words in the Style
of Chagall" (the famous painter
Chagall is both a friend and a
great admirer of the poet) convey
in a superb style the mood of the
artist in his natural urge for crea-
tivity, his pursuit of perfection and
his constant wrestling with him-
self regarding his goal, his mission
—the ever vexing questions of the
artist. What then is the mission of
the artist? What is his goal? Are
there any guidelines the artist is
to follow in his artistic endeavor?
Here are some of the interest-
ing thoughts taken out of this poem
and put in simpler language. The
artist is the whipped but crowned
slave, and he deserves no more
thanks than the apple tree for its
apples. The most important thing
for the artist td follow is to be as
authentic as the soil, be daring in
his dreams and let his paintings
be his prayers.
• • •
The poems "Hiluli," "The Bird
Kukubara." "Emblem" and the
"King Chaco" which is based on a
legend from the Zulu folklore, are
among the finest of this series, each
carrying an unmistakable evidence
of Sutzkever's imaginative power
and of his masterly language.
"The City of Old Jaffa in the
Rain" is the heading of another
series with entirely different
themes and moods, of which the
poem "Silence in the Storm" is
one of the subtlest.
Sutzkever's warm feeling and
reverence of the greatest Jewish
poet Leivick are expressed in the
beautiful and moving poem "To
Leivick." In just two verses of the
poem Sutzkever succeeds in bring-
ing out poetically the personality
of that distinguished poet of poets.
In two other verses the noisy city
of skyscrapers. Nem...York, is trans-
formed by the poet's imaginative
power into a stony forest in an
everlasting silence. The somber
mood brought about by Leivick's
death permeates the entire poem.
• • •
Two other series of poems are:
"In Memory of the Ghetto," and
"Quadrangular Letters and Won-
ders." The Holocaust—the most
infamous chapter in the world's
history — cannot and must not be
forgotten.In his speech delivered
at the celebration of his 50th
birthday at the University of Jeru-
salem, Sutzkever revealed a very
remarkable trait of his poetic na-
ture. He told the audience that in
the most trying dayi in the ghetto
he was guided by a strong belief
that as long as his natural urge
for poetic creativity did not aban-
don him, nothing could cause his
destruction. In this connection, two
instances of his miraculous escapes
from death are worth citing. Once,
in his flight from the pursuing SS
troopers, he ran into a mortuary
Of the hevrah kadisha and hid
in an empty coffin. It became a
"cradle or a little boat on stormy
waves," and a poem was born. A
second time, while escaping the
Nazi soldiers he fell into a ditch
filled with a mass of slaked lime.
His wounds burning as if he were

40—Friday, September 5, 1969

spark of hope in the tormented soul A voluminous work detailing Is- in 1949. Now, when cease-fire
o f thewhen he looks. at th rael's struggle for independence has agreements are being broken, when
bonfires on the hills in Israel lit has been reissued by •Hartmore history is being recapitulated with
on the occasion of the Lag b'Omer House of Hartford, Conn., and it regard to past experiences, such
celebration. Other fires on different retains its value today, as it at- backgrounds are urgently needed
occasions rush back to his memory tained it when first published by for a total understanding of the
—the time when the Jewish ghettos G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1961. entire Middle East situation.
in city after city were burned to I Netaniel Lerch, who has held im- Thus, for students of the Middle
the ground. In his poem "Lag ' portant Israeli posts and was am- East, for seekers of truth about
b'Omer Bonfires" the poet depicts bassador of Israel to Peru and Israel's role as a nation that
a velvety little sack for philac- Bolivia, is the author of immense emerged victorious and indepen-
teries with a tear of mourning work now bearing the title "Israel's dent, for those in need of historical
("kreeah") hanging from a branch War of Independence 1947-1949." data regarding the negotiations
of a tree—all that was left of the When first published it bore the that were conducted with the Arab
Shtetl of Zamet. The poet sees in caption "The Edge of the Sword." nations, this revised volume has
the Lag b'Omer bonfires with the
A most impressive work, exten- special significance.
children dancing around them a sively illustrated with photographs
Lorch details the manner in
symbolic purification of the ashes that throw light on Israel's history, which the war began, how Israel
• • •
of the burned out Jewish towns its foreword is by Gen. S. L. A. repelled the invasion by the Arab
surrounded by flames, he suddenly with a phoenix rising out of the Marshall and there is a an epilOgue
states, overcoming the dangers
noticed blood from his body stream- ashes.
by Maj. Gen. Yigael Yadin, for- on all fronts—Syrian, Iraqi,
ing on the surface of the white Joy always mixed with some mer chief of the general staff
' of Egyptian, Jordanian. All the op-
mass forming a figure of the set- sorrow, hope, and never despairing the Israel defense forces.
erations, on land, in the air, on
ting sun. The streaming blood then have long become the characteris-
sea, are delineated in full detail,
Gen Marshall's foreword con-
appeared to him "like a gush of tic features of our historic plight. tains a ' tribute to Israel's armed
and the reader is provided with
rubies dripping. Rowing, moving oug
Thh a "riest
of the beautiful" forces. He predicts its endurance
a complete review of events that
verses like in poems." And a the Jewish poet cannot afford to as an army "firm in the affec-
emerged among the most historic
poem was born.
live, feel and always think apart lions of its people."
in modern history.
• • •
from his people. The plight of the
The battle for Jerusalem re-
Equally vital for an understand-
Sutzkever is a poet of high sensi- poet is the plight of his people. ing of the events that marked the ceives complete analysis, and the
tivity. He feels intensely. With the Perhaps the verse of the prophet Israeli triumph in the struggle for descriptive maps assist in acquir-
years of tragic experiences behind, 'Ezekiel best expresses it
independence is the epilogue in ing a full view of what had oc-
he cannot however forget the pain- "when I passed by thee and saw which Gen. Yadin states that Lt. curred, the areas where the strug-
ful pictures of the sufferings of his thee rolling in thine blood .. . yea. Col. Lorch, as a founder df the files were conducted, the great
people. The acts of brutality he , I said unto thee when thou was'
i , tary history division of the Is- odds under which Israelis fought.
himself witnessed are still vivid in : in thy blood, Live." And we might mil general staff, endowed his
The complete story of Israel's
his memory. He cannot forget the : add, there is so much vitality in ' book
'a' "with
the requisite tone and battle for independence would not
long march of the sick Jews ("In the Jewish people and there is so
style, characterized by a minute be fully understood without a re-
tied Shirts") in long blue shirts' much music in the poetry of its study of the sources and a presen- view of the armistice agreements
. in
. connection with the gen-
tied with ropes to one another and crowned poet, • Sutzkever.
the complete details of which make

driven by the Gestapo from an
it possible for reviewers of the
Abraham Sutzkever's two latest cra I political background."
asylum in the ghetto. Nor can he
years to go into the details
forget the German soldiers ("Good works containing his collected
Germans") entertaining themselves poems—his "Quadrangular Letters , book is vital—that it covers splen- of what had transpired.
The author of this large book pro-
in a football game in which a and Wonders" and the earlier didly the backgrounds. the politi-
Jewish infant is used as the ball. "Poems From the Sea of Death" cal, the military, the skillful oper- vides the basic material for knowl-
In his poem, "My Prayer," the which was reviewed by Wolf Snyd- , ational details. And its value lies edge of the Arab position, the at-
poet prays for words as soft and er in The Jewish News, May 16— even more significantly in the fact tacks on hospital convoys, the role
as thin as the thinnest of the veins will be on 'display and on sale that it offers as appendices the I of the British who had given com-
to be able to chat in intimate during the annual Book Fair at texts of armistice agreements , fort to the Arabs.
which led to cessation of hostilities
silence with his neighbors that are the Jewish Center, Nov. 8-16.
Because the volume goes back
i to the hearings before the Peel
forever gone.
In our review of his previous Jewish Colleeg Courses Receive University Credit commission in 1937 and the discus-
book, "Poems From the Sea of
CLEVELAND (JTA) — The, nine hours of Bible study may re- ' sions on the Partition Plan, the
Death" of which the present series Cleveland College of Jewish Studies' ceive such credits, which is the detailed political background as
is a part, we said that words are and John Carroll University have basic requirement in theology and enumerated here. the storj, pre-
too weak to give expression to the reached agreement on a program scripture at the university. Up to sented is not of the war alone but
trials and sufferings, indignation under which the university will 12 hours in education and in He- also of the Zionist era preceding
and condemnation, and that it is give credit for some courses in brew also could be accepted for statehood.
only the poetic genius of the poet which students receive a "C" credit. The 12 hours is the univer- ; "Israel's War of Independence
that enables the reader to sub- grade or higher at the college.
! sity core requirement for a foreign 1947-1949" by Lorch remains among
merge into the depth of the "Sea
The four areas covered in the language. Up to eight hours of the most vital works dealing with
of Death" and emerge from it with agreement are Bible. Education, ! elective credit in history may be the battle for Israel's re-emergence
a de-profundis prayer on the lips. Hebrew and Jewish history. Up to I allowed under the agreement. ' into statehood.
His years in Israel undoubtedly
brought some moments of repose
and even joy to the tormented
soul of the poet. But the violence,
cruelty and injustice in a world
crying for peace yet engaged in
slaughter awakens in the poet a
pessimistic mood, "One generation
devours another yet it is not sated,"
years ago Menahem Ussishkin addressed the "Council of Ten" at the
and if the Redeemer doesn't come
who will then redeem the world?
Versailles Peace Conference as the representative of Russian Jetcry, on the
In his God-seeking moments
Jewish people's claim on the Land of Israel. Ussishkin spoke in Hebrew — by
( "Song about Relations") he is
design; it was the first time that the sound of the old-new language was heard
led to discover that the Creator
in the halls of international diplomacy.
himself is as lonely as his crea-
Following are some excerpts in Hebrew and English from that remarkable ad-
His moments of joy mix with
sorrow when the poet thinks of his
dress that compressed 2,000 years of Jewish history into a six minute presentation.
daughter who is engaged with
great ardor in seeking the secrets
In the name of the largest Jewish group, Russian
low 'nit .o.orta brain era Wm, rivrvt rrp:,
of Masada. He observes in the
Jewry, I stand before you, leaders of the world,
Sr ontotrort ov••ot to no •an's •=1 alms •Irrup mono',
Poem ("Secrets of Masada") that
to express here the historic demands of the Jewish
turn tut Star
1•Trth1 ems' nine Win* T'',11177`11 atom
his daughter (i.e. the sabra in Is-
nation to restore it to its borders and to give back
town nit — JIM Went nrals •.1116 irons 'to on5 anoariv
' rael) is becoming versed more and
to the Children of Israel the land God promised
new :Man mu Sar initial rertts main or nrs wrnatt as
more in every potsherd or piece
them four thousand years ago. ... This land was
.12.31111:1 trpr3p 312•0 na lr,111X nIns
of parchment related to Masada
stolen from the Jewish people 1850 years ago by
while knowing very little of the
the "World Hammer" of those days—Rome. The
writ air tato nth rp5trwra colitis eisa aStss x rot
Jewish people was exiled and scattered throughout
historic heroism of the Jews in
nnitsvi tr5x1rn mutts intern —
•Thisrt woo..
the world. And now I. a son of those people, come
the Diaspora.
nowt era am 0471111
v7sr! b'71/f1 Ssa rnionn arias
before you, the heirs of Rome in a political and
The gradual disappearance of
nyno :Irmo Irtternt 'grin erissss weep &me, as Jiplvv,
cultural sense—and ask of you: Return to us the
the Yiddish language from the lips
.innieonvi o'mo rut Iff rims" s one rein —
historic theft."
to roma-Int
of many disturbs the poet to whom
Yiddish is more than just an in-
In conclusion Ussishkin declared,
strument for self-expresion. In the
words of the badkhan from Lodz,
Leaders of the world! We are living at the begin-
*ram ri — is e"n usw ma anion umsn +wrap.
the classic entertainer on Jewish
ning of a new period in world history. Every people
'nine tenT3.1 mnrtan any my 112 Alingn nthina arm wan
weddings, who now sits in the tav-
is given the right to live its life in accordance with
15 inns eerie hlri or in
moss S ay reel veva .a.or
its desires and hopes. You have helped many vic-
ern "Yordei Yam" and asks:
tims of the War, in which the Jewish people also
"since only Jews that are dead
U1," Or aiw .teran nonSoa .111113,11171 1.1111
sacrificed thousands and tens of thousands. And
speak Yiddish and the living don't,
Mang nuoipz as nostril
nos Illtref
we have the right tb request and demand that you
of what use is my "bodkhonuth"?
mer boo vi-rdl rye, ovum main ut, Oa Tim .wor coal
help free our people and build our land. The moral
, Thus the poet suspended between
victory which you have won regarding other peo-
mesa moth bthnsat »mon prism .11I111 r1251 1101 Mire/
; joy and gloom, hope and despair,
ples should be completely righteous also in regard
even questions the usefulness of
VfOnlil 0/6 riIll owl ex 125v, alto kJ xr — worn Ulf
his poetic creativity.
n'nruss or :tinn nnrs
of Israel!"
But a ray of light rekindles the

Author and Reviewer


grortfollio of the Fast


Special Feature Prepared by the Tarbut Ivrit Foundation of America

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