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Yehuda Amichai

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Last Updated: 18 January 2022

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Yehuda Amichai

Born( 1924-05-03 ) 3 May 1924 Wurzburg , Germany
Died22 September 2000 (2000-09-22) (aged 76) Israel
LanguageHebrew
CitizenshipIsraeli
GenrePoetry
Yehuda Amichai quotes | Quotes of famous people "Yehuda Amichai quotes | Quotes of famous people", by Quotes of Famous People, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Yehuda Amichai is recognized as one of Israel's finest poets. His poems, written in Hebrew, have been translated into 40 languages, and entire volumes of his work have been published in English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan. Yehuda Amichai, it has been remarked with some justice, according to translator Robert Alter, is the most widely translated Hebrew poet since King David. Amichais translations into English have been particularly popular, and his imaginative and accessible style is credited with introducing contemporary Hebrew POETRY to American and English readers. The Poet CK Williams describes Amichai as the shrewdest and most solid of poetic intelligences. Amichais numerous Books Of POETRY include his first in Hebrew, Now and in Other Days, which announce his distinctively colloquial voice, and two breakthrough volumes that introduce him to American readers: Poems and Select Poems Of Yehuda Amichai, both co-translate by Ted Hughes, who become good friend and advocate of Amichais work. Later works translated into English include Time: Travels Of Latter-Day Benjamin Of Tudela, Yehuda Amichai: Life in POETRY 1948-1994, Select Poetry Of Yehuda Amichai, Exile at Home, and Open close Open. Amichai also published two novels, including his first work To be translated into English, Not Of this Time, not Of this Place, and Book Of short Stories. Born in Germany in 1924, Amichai and his family fled the country during the Hitlers ' rise to power when Amichai was 12 and settled in Palestine. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, he fought with Israeli defense forces. The rigors and horrors of his service in this conflict, and in World War II, inform his POETRY. In an interview with Paris Review, Amichai noted that all POETRY was political: this is because real poems deal with human response to reality, and politics is part of reality, history in making, he say. Even if a poet writes about sitting in a glass house drinking tea, it reflects politics. It was during World War II that Amichai began to be interested in POETRY, reading Modern English and American POETRY, by authors such as Dylan Thomas, WH Auden, and TS Eliot. According to Alter, Amichais early work bears resemblance to the POETRY of Thomas and Auden. Rilke, write Alter, is another informing presence for him, Occasionally in matters of stylehe has written vaguely about Rilkesque elegiesbut, perhaps more as a model for using the language of Here and Now as an instrument to catch glimmerings of metaphysical beyond. Although Amichai's native language was German, he read Hebrew fluently by the time he immigrated to Palestine. After World War II, Amichai attended Hebrew University. He taught in secondary schools, teachers ' seminars, Hebrew University, and later at American institutions such as New York University, University Of California-Berkeley, and Yale University. In New York Times Magazine profile of Amichai, Alter notes that by mid-1960s Amichai was already regarded in many circles in Israel as the countrys leading poet. Amichais reputation outside of Israel soon soar.

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Poetry

Amichai's poetry deals with issues of day-to-day life, and with philosophical issues of the meaning of life and death. His work is characterized by gentle irony and original, often surprising imagery. Like many secular Israeli poets, he struggles with religious faith. His poems are full of references to God and religious experience. He was described as a philosopher-poet in search of post-theological humanism. Amichai has been credited with a rare ability for transforming personal, even private, love situation, with all their joys and agonies, into everybody's experience, making his own time and place general. Some of his imagery was accused of being sacrilegious. In his poem This is Your Glory, for example, God is sprawl under the globe like a mechanic under a car, futilely trying to repair it. In the poem, Gods Change, Prayers Stay Same, God is portrayed as a tour guide or magician. Many of Amichai's poems were set to music in Israel and in other countries. Among them: poem Memorial Day for War Dead was set to music for solo voices, chorus and orchestra in Mohammed Fairouz's Third Symphony. Other poems were set by composers Elizabeth Alexander, David Froom, Mattias Pintscher, Jan Dusek, Benjamin Wallfisch, Ayelet Rise Gottlieb, Maya Beiser, Elizabeth Swados, Daniel Asia and others.

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Language and poetic style

In an interview published in American Poetry Review, Amichai spoke about his command of Hebrew: Robert Alter described Amichai's poetry as play of sound. He builds strong momentum that moves in free association from word to word, sound virtually generating words that follow in syntactic chain through phonetic kinship. Amichai's work was popular in English translation, but admirers of his poetry in original Hebrew claim his innovative use of language is lost in translation. Subtle layers of meaning achieved using ancient word rather than its modern synonym to impart Biblical connotation cannot always be convey. In Amichai's love poem in the Middle of this Century, for instance, English translation reads: linsey-woolsey of our being together. The Hebrew term, shaatnez, refers to the Biblical taboo on interweaving linen and wool, which Hebrew reader would grasp as an image of forbidden union.

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Critical acclaim

Yehuda Amichai, uncrowned poet laureate of the State of Israel, was born Ludwig Pfeuffer to Orthodox Jewish parents in Wurzberg, Germany, on May 3 1924. He received a formal Jewish education rich in Biblical and rabbinical tradition and became familiar with the Hebrew Language through study and prayer. Amichai would later draw on his early intimacy with his Jewish heritage with irreverent religious imagery and intense God-driven narratives which form critical pillar of his opus. In 1936, Amichai immigrated with his entire extended family to Mandate, Palestine, then British colony, landing briefly in Petach Tikvah before settling in Jerusalem. During World War II, he served in the British armys Jewish Brigade; it was in wartime, station in Egypt, that young Amichai began seriously exploring poetry. He was particularly attracted to the modern English poetry by WH Auden and TS Eliot, who, together with German romantic poets, would strongly influence him throughout his poetic career. After his discharge from the army, Amichai joined the elite Palmach force, which was fighting for the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine. In 1946, he assumed his new last name, which translated into my people's lives. Amichai again took up arms during the 1948 War of Independence and did so again in the Sinai War and Yom Kippur War. The Ubiquity of War in Israeli life and its interplay with nations ' stubborn dreams of peace make up one of the most significant currents in Amichai poetry. As he write, I have never written a War poem that does not mention love in it, and I have never written love poem without echo of War. Amichai went on to publish numerous collections of poetry in Hebrew as well as plays, essays, novels, and childrens books, over a 46-year career. His work has been translated into over forty languages, including Chinese, Arabic, and Catalan. He was award, among other honors, 1982 Israel Prize, his nations highest award for cultural achievement, and foreign honorary membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. Until his death, he was perennial favorite for the Nobel Prize. Amichai passed away of cancer in Jerusalem on September 22 2000, survived by his second wife Chana and his three children.

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Awards and honours

1957-Shlonsky Prize 1969-Brenner Prize 1976-Bialik Prize for Literature 1981-Wurzburg's Prize for Culture 1982-Israel Prize for Hebrew Poetry. The Prize Citation reads, in part: through his synthesis of poetic with everyday, Yehuda Amichai effected revolutionary changes in both subject matter and the Language of Poetry. 1986-Agnon Prize 1994-Malraux Prize: International Book Fair 1994-Literary Lion Award 1995-Macedonia's Golden Wreath Award: International Poetry Festival 1996-Norwegian Bjornson Poetry Award Amichai receives Honor Citation from Assiut University, Egypt, and numerous Honorary doctorates. He became an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work is included in 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature, and in International anthologies Poems for Millennium by J. Rothenberg and P. Joris, and 100 Great Poems of the 20 Century by Mark Strand. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize several times, but never won. Tufts University English professor Jonathan Wilson write, he should have won the Nobel Prize in any of the last 20 years, but he knew that as far as Scandinavian judges were concerned, and whatever his personal politics, which were indubitably on the dovish side, he came from the wrong side of stockade.

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Amichai Archive

Amichai sold his Archive for over 200 000 to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. The archive contains 1 500 letters received from the early 1960s to early 1990s from dozens of Israeli writers, poets, intellectuals and politicians. Overseas correspondence includes letters from Ted Hughes, Arthur Miller, Erica Jong, Paul Celan, and many others. The Archive also includes dozens of unpublished poems, stories and plays; 50 notebooks and notepads with 1 500 pages of notes, poems, thoughts and drafts from 1950s onward, and Poet's diaries, which he kept for 40 years. According to Moshe Mossek, former head of Israel State Archive, these materials offer priceless data about Amichai's life and work. In the Hebrew edition of 19 October 2012, Haaretz editorial board apologized for incorrect facts that were published in Mr. Mosek's article.

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Citation styles

Amichai, like many other postcolonial writers, engages in dialogue with history that forces monumental events of world historical narrative to be responsible for individual histories of those who live through them. He seeks to elucidate, in Federico Garcia Lorca words, drop of blood that stand behind statistics. Consequentially, Amichai refuses to glamorize or gloss over the tragic, putrid nature of war and pain, just as he refuses to justify one historical misdeed with another. His insistence that I fall in the terrible sands of Ashdod along with his comrades-in-arms displays such terrible grief that any contemporary glorification of the War of Independence is stop dead. While Amichai recognizes the inadequacy of mere words in the shadow of tragedy, he continues to bear witness in verse. Amichai does not limit himself to modern, Israeli history; he bear burden and joy of three thousand-year-old Jewish tradition, and he offers his commentary on the entirety of Jewish experience. Using imagery from the Bible, prayerbook, and mystical tradition, Amichai reveals the struggle of contemporary Israeli secularism: to draw from the richness of Jewish heritage without falling into the claptrap of religiosity. Amichai, after all, was a committed secularist, yet he never ceased his dialogue with God. While satirizing the establishment of religion, his tradition is still the deepest and most frequent source of allusion in his verse. Yet, while Amichai, as scion of persecuted religion, often engages in poetry of persecution, his task is that of returning to exile rather than that of a newly-freed native. Differences extend from choice of language to scope of responsibility. Many postcolonial writers from areas such as South Asia and the Americas resent imposition of former colonizers ' tongue; Amichais Hebrew, on other hand, is reclaiming his birthright. Other writers have particular responsibilities to their home communities, to tell stories that colonizers never countenance; Amichai, however, find himself bound not only to the entirety of Jewish people but to his Arab brethren as well, and, indeed, to the broadest spectrum of humanity. Barring all suggestions of history, religion, or politics, Amichai is one of the world's most intimate and stunning love poets. He unabashedly displays his passion: one notices that even in his least guard exclamations of love, Amichai employs astoundingly scriptural imagery. He cannot escape from his history, which is his identity, even if he would want to.

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Works in Critical Context

Yehuda Amichai is generally considered one of the most important poets of his generation of Israeli writers, focusing as he does on Israelis' painful and often ambivalent feelings about their post-Holocaust and postliberation existence. His poetry is widely praised by international audience for its spare, honest exploration of emotions many people find too painful to face. But Amichai is not without his detractors. Some critics find his work simplistic and missing crucial core philosophy, since Amichai, like many of his peers, does not align himself with one specific political view. Nonetheless, Amichai's work is admired overall for the strong, if sometimes sorrowful and confused, passion it display. Though his poetry is sometimes described as lacking a comprehensive philosophical system because of his seemingly simple observations and syntax, it is his ability to infuse ordinary moments with extraordinary metaphysical meaning that first drew international attention to his work. In an online review for East Bay Express, Stephen Kessler notes that Amichai has long been one of the planet's preeminent poets. Jewish down to bones, his humanity is broadly universal, obsessed as Amichai with time and death, war and peace, love and memory, joy and suffering. And New Republic essayist and American poet C. K. Williams finds in Amichai's work the shrewdest and most solid of poetic intelligences. Open close Open According to C. K. Williams, Open close open comprises sustain outburst of inspiration, and it has complicated relation to wisdom and to matters of spirit. Williams continue: To sojourn with Amichai in the vast, rugged, sympathetic domain of his imagination is to be give leave to linger in one of those privileged moments when we are in confidential and confident engagement with our own spirits. Daniel Weissbort writes, this poet's work, in its expansiveness and humanity, enriches all its readers and has been crucial in enabling the new literature of Israel to engage in creative dialogue with the entire problematical and paradoxical history of the Jewish people. Amichai, in short, might be termed poet of universal Jewishness; in his own complex negotiation with Jewish identity after the Holocaust, he wrote work that speaks to all people at all times.

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Sources

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