This article offers a materialist reading of the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, the most well-known Israeli poet outside Israel. The article explores the political role of irony in Amichai’s early work, situating him as a prominent member of the “State Generation” poetry. Challenging accepted readings, the essay argues that Amichai’s poems that deal with the 1948 war, should be read as a post-traumatic response, which uses irony and rich and bold metaphorical devices to distance itself from the horrors of the war, and therefore also form the political and ethical meanings of the Naqba. That Amichai’s poetry translates the language of horror to that of love involves an extreme depoliticization, which accounts for its popularity in Israel and worldwide. The reification of intimate love by Amichai neutralizes any possibility for resistance. This a-political stance is a result of Amicai’s writing of universalistic civic poetry, which made it possible for him to neutralize the war poet’s need to bear responsibility for the Palestinian Naqba (in which many Palestinians fled Palestine, or were deported from it), which made Israel a state with a Jewish majority. The neutralization of the literary (and political) opposition between the language of Israeli citizenship and the language of nationhood in Israel, which could include Palestinians, is a powerful too of oppression. However, Amichai ignores the fact that the unethical results of the 1948 war still inhere in the Israeli state’s refusal to grant equal citizenship rights to all Palestinians, by recognizing their right of return. This essays discussion of Amichai’s novel deals with the way in which Jewish sovereignty is constructed in the novel. The novel exposes this sovereignty’s founding after the war, through linguistic representations of the power that turns illegitimate the desire to exact revenge on the Germans, which exists outside the law of the Israeli sovereign.
"Irony, Revenge, and the Naqba in Yehuda Amichai’s Early Work."
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