New Books on Yehuda Amichai

A couple of new books have recently come out about Yehuda Amichai.

First, the publication of Robert Alter’s new book,  The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, is a compilation of a variety of previous translations as well as many poems that have never been translated into English before. Alter, who is the preeminent Hebrew literature translator and critic, has done a fine job assembling all of the poems together in one volume, old and new. Plus, he has added an informative introduction that places Amichai’s work in the context of modern poetry and contemporary Hebrew literature.

Here’s a blurb about the book from Amazon:

“Few poets have demonstrated as persuasively as Yehuda Amichai why poetry matters. One of the major poets of the twentieth century, Amichai created remarkably accessible poems, vivid in their evocation of the Israeli landscape and historical predicament, yet universally resonant. His are some of the most moving love poems written in any language in the past two generations―some exuberant, some powerfully erotic, many suffused with sadness over the fate of separation that casts its shadow on love. In a country torn by armed conflict, these poems poignantly assert the preciousness of private experience, cherished under the repeated threats of violence and death.”

“Amichai’s poetry has attracted a variety of gifted English translators on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1960s to the present. Assembled by the award-winning Hebrew scholar and translator Robert Alter, The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai is by far the largest selection of the master poet’s work to appear in English, gathering the best of the existing translations as well as offering English versions of many previously untranslated poems. With this collection, Amichai’s vital poetic voice is now available to English readers as it never has been before.”

Another new book that just came out is, The Full Severity of Compassion: The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, by another one of Amichai’s translators, Chana Kronfeld. A professor of comparative literature at Berkeley, Kronfeld started reading Amichai’s poems when she was a teenager. Here’s the blurb with more detailed info from her publisher, Stanford University Press:

“Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) was the foremost Israeli poet of the twentieth century and an internationally influential literary figure whose poetry has been translated into some 40 languages. Hitherto, no comprehensive literary study of Amichai’s poetry has appeared in English. This long-awaited book seeks to fill the gap.”

“Widely considered one of the greatest poets of our time and the most important Jewish poet since Paul Celan, Amichai is beloved by readers the world over. Beneath the carefully crafted and accessible surface of Amichai’s poetry lies a profound, complex, and often revolutionary poetic vision that deliberately disrupts traditional literary boundaries and distinctions. Chana Kronfeld focuses on the stylistic implications of Amichai’s poetic philosophy and on what she describes as his “acerbic critique of ideology.” She rescues Amichai’s poetry from complacent appropriations, showing in the process how his work obliges us to rethink major issues in literary studies, including metaphor, intertextuality, translation, and the politics of poetic form. In spotlighting his deeply egalitarian outlook, this book makes the experimental, iconoclastic Amichai newly compelling.”

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