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May 24, 1985 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-05-24

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Friday, May 24, 1985



bout que

experimental language, more in-
novation in forms. A second direc-
tion for me is in digging more into
human psychology, using it in a
literal rather than in a symbolic
How do you define yourself as a
I divide writers into two groups:
writers of the "world," and writers
of the "subject." Writers of the
"world" — Faulkner is a good
example — create and people a
"world," and in their stories their
characters live in that "world,"
and you always know precisely
where you are with them. Appel-
feld is a "world" writer in that
sense; he has created a certain
"world" of the Holocaust, and he
has a commitment to it.
"Subject" writers have a com-
mitment only to the subject of a
given book. The subject changes
from book to book. Of course,
there are aspects of "world" in
"subject" writers. Take Saul Be-
llow, for example. Even though he
locates his scenes in a familiar
world, often Chicago, he nonethe-
less moves from subject to subject.
Proust is another "world" writer,
while Dostoevsky and Camus are
"subject" writers. Joyce is a mix-

'For me, the
Diaspora is the great
failure of the Jewish

ture of the two, with a tendency
more to "world" than to "subject."
I am more a writer of the "sub-
ject." I would be happy if I had a
"world," but I don't.
You mentioned Appelfeld a
moment ago. How do you relate to
writers in Israel, your contem-
I respect Appelfeld very much.
We started together. I remember
the time he read me his first story.
He has introduced aesthetics into
the writing about the Holocaust.
Before Appelfeld, the subject of
the Holocaust had produced very
bad literature.
Why was it bad?
The situation of the Holocaust
was always one of black and
white. There was no possibility of
using humor. Reality always out-
stripped the wise fantasy of the
writer. It outstripped the imagi-
nation. Holocaust writing was
always "victim" literature, the
accusers and the killers, the con-
frontation between the Germans
and Jews. it did not deal with the
relations between the Jews them-
selves. Appelfeld dealt with those
relations and opened up new pos-
sibilities for treating the
Holocaust in literature. And he
found the proper style to do it.

What other writers are you close
Amos Oz. Though our writing is
different, we are closest friends.
We have the same ideological be-
liefs about the Diaspora, and Is-
rael as a topic in our writing, but
we write independently. We were
born two- streets away from each
other — he is younger than me —
so we feel like brothers to one an-

other. He sends his drafts to me
and I send my drafts to him. It is
really a very close, warm rela-
What about women writers?
We now have quite a number of
women writers and the best of
them is Amalia Kahana Carmon,
a short story writer and novelist.
Her work is fine and delicate; she
has a kind of technique like Vir-
ginia Woolf s. Because she is so
sensitive and knowledgeable
about languages, including
English, she has not yet approved
any translations of her work and,
therefore, she's not known in
America and that's a pity.
How do you feel about Amichai's
Amichai is an excellent poet, I
like his poetry very much. I hope
that if we have another Nobel
prize awarded to an Israeli writer,
he will be the man to get it.
How do you feel about Amichai's
Amichai is an excellent poet, I
like his poetry very much. I hope
that if we have another Nobel
prize awarded to an Israeli writer,
he will be the man to get it.
Who else do you consider impor-
Yacov Shabtai. Unfortunately,
he died recently at the age of 48.
HisPast Continuous has attracted
a lot of attention. The Jewish Pub-
lication Society recently pub-
lished a translation. He was a fine
and interesting writer and de-
serves to be widely read. Also,
there is another writer, now 70
and unknown in America. His
name is Samech Yzhar. His Days
of Tiklag is a masterpiece. It is a
novel about the War for Indepen-
dence, and is one of the master-
pieces of war literature of all time.
He used a stream of consciousness
technique, doing for groups what
Joyce did for individuals. His
novel is unique, and I think it is
the single most important Israeli
work we have.
Your recent speech entitled
"Diaspora - The Neurotic Solu-
tion" to the Board of Governors of
the American Jewish Committee
convened in Israel has been widely
reported in the American Jewish
press, and it has attracted a lot of
attention. How did you come to ob-
ject so strongly to Jews' living out-
side of Israel?
Sometime ago I wrote on
Zionism calledBetween Right and
Right. It tries to analyze the phe-
nomenon of Diaspora. I have been
obsessed with the question of exile
for a long time, trying to under-
stand why it has dominated
Jewish history. In my research I
discovered that exile had never
been forced and that over history
Jews went by their own will into
the Diaspora.
The phenomenon of exile is, of
course, ancient and Biblical. We
think of Abraham and Jacob. I
was astonished to realize that dis-
persion was not forced but under-
taken voluntarily. For me Dias-
pora is the great failure of the
Jewish people; I regard the
Holocaust as a consequence of the
Diaspora. We have paid too much
for it, and we will go on paying
through the continuous loss of our
people, We are doomed to lose
more and more.

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