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In the years following World War II, modern Hebrew poets like Leah Goldberg wrestled with the rupture from European culture and their own longing for it against Zionism’s “rejection of the diaspora.” In this context, translation allowed for a continued dialogue with past and present Europe, while it also constituted a vital investment on behalf of a national literature in Hebrew. Anthologies of shirat ‘olam, world poetry, appeared with greater frequency in the post-war years, both to increase the corpus of world literature in Hebrew translation and to position Hebrew as a national literary language on the world stage. This chapter explores how an understanding of world literature took shape in early twentieth century Hebrew literature, and particularly in the field of poetry, where translated poems circulated widely in a range of formats, from radio broadcasts to newspapers and anthologies. Drawing from Goldberg’s oeuvre, this chapter considers her translation activity as part of a broader discourse on “world literature” in early to mid-twentieth century Hebrew literary culture, one that privileged, as I show, a European world literary model. Goldberg’s translations of the poetry from Far Eastern languages, specifically Chinese and Japanese poetry, both expand and complicate the coordinates of her world literary map. The inclusion of Chinese and Japanese poetry in translation expanded her poetic map “beyond Bialystock” and Tel Aviv, but as translations mediated by German translation and European Orientalism, they bring into relief a critical tension between “the far and the near” that underlies world literary models in general, and the case of the Hebrew ‘olam in particular.
Chapter 31 of The Cambridge Companion to Sappho examines the reception of Sappho’s poetry in Hebrew literature, examining figures such as Margot Klausner, Aharon Kaminka, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and Amir Or.
The capacious first issue of ho! (), a prominent Israeli literary journal that debuted in 2005, included a seven-page questionnaire titled “Goldberg Variations” (), a pun on Bach's Goldberg Variations, a composition for the harpsichord. The purpose of the questionnaire was—and still is, if you choose to do it—to answer the question “Are you Leah Goldberg?” (), Goldberg being one of the major Hebrew poets of the twentieth century. The short epigraph that followed this question was two lines from the opening poem of her debut collection Smoke Rings (1935; ):
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