Poems of Jerusalem: A Bilingual Edition

Yehuda Amichai, Author Harper Perennial $15.95 (135p) ISBN 978-0-06-096288-3
In this anthology by the Israeli poet, Jerusalem dominates as Amichai delights in contrasting the city's religious imagery with the mundane concerns of daily life therein. An erotic subtext is often present: in ``A Tourist,'' the poet chats up a Scandinavian ``golden girl'' who is visiting the Old City, closing with this aside to the reader``Once Hebrew was God's slang / in these streets, / now I use it for / holy desire.'' The poet is acutely aware of the romantic notions of the Israeli capital and of the simplistic views of its conflicts harbored by tourists. In ``Jerusalem,'' written before the 1967 war, Amichai contemplates the physically divided city: ``We have put up many flags, / they have put up many flags. / To make us think that they're happy. / To make them think that we're happy.'' Religious motifs are not exclusively Jewish here but Christian and Moslem as well. The superbly translated bilingual volume succeeds in evoking the beauty and melancholy of Jerusalem, a city in which the air ``is saturated with prayers and dreams / like the air over industrial cities. / It's hard to breathe.'' (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
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