New York Times review of ‘The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai,’ Edited by Robert Alter
Yehuda Amichai was born in Würzburg, Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish family, and was raised speaking both Hebrew and German,his German name was Ludwig Pfeuffer.
Amichai immigrated with his family at the age of 11 to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1936. He attended Ma’aleh, a religious high school in Jerusalem. He was a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, the defense force of the Jewish community in Mandate Palestine. As a young man he volunteered and fought in World War II as a member of the British Army, and in the Negev on the southern front in the Israeli War of Independence.
Included in this review is an examination of the important Iraqi war poetry from the time of the Iraq-Iran war to the conflicts of the 21st century.
“In the latter half of the twentieth century some of the Arab world’s most important poets emerged from the country; names like Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, Nazik al-Mala’ika, and ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati—among many others…. Yet far less has been written, particularly in English, about the writers and cultural figures from the final quarter of the last century until the present day….in December 2008 a conference entitled “Cultural Voices of a Fragmented Nation: War, Trauma and Remembrance in Contemporary Iraq” took place at the Phillips-Universität in Marburg, Germany. Much of <i>Conflicting Narratives: War, Trauma, and Memory in Iraqi Culture</i> grew from this conference….It is also perhaps the most comprehensive resource in English on Iraqi literature and other cultural productions from 1980 to 2010, a historically important period whose cultural legacy risks being overshadowed by the horrific events occurring in the country today. ”
originally published in the most recent issue of Arab Studies Journal
If you were to ask who was the national poet of the State of Israel since 1948, the inevitable answer would be Amichai. At some point in his development, the man who had once been Ludwig Pfeuffer decided that he would live his life in Israel—mainly in Jerusalem—and that he would write his works in Hebrew.