The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai, edited by Robert Alter. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (576p) ISBN 978-0-374-23525-3
Over his long career, Amichai (1924–2000) became the best-known poet of modern Israel and was admired in translation around the world. This mammoth and ably assembled selection combines existing English versions (by Chana Bloch, Stephen Mitchell, Ted Hughes, and others) with new ones by Alter. The book follows Amichai from early adulthood and the founding of Israel, through residences in Jerusalem and on the Mediterranean, through hot war and cold peace, and into old age. As Alter, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California–Berkeley, explains in his compact preface, Amichai’s Hebrew survives translation well even though it is saturated in Biblical and Jewish liturgical cadence. Amichai wrote prolifically, in love and sorrow, about the land and the struggles over it. Yet it may be as a poet of embodied erotic desire that Amichai has had the widest appeal. His love poems will go on being read and studied, cherished and sent as billet-doux. And this casual, open, yet very literary poet seems to have anticipated his fate: “I who lose things describe in passionate words what I love,” Amichai recalled. “I whose house will be razed and whose body will rot/ praise the new houses/ and the bodies still fresh and filled with love.” Agent: Deborah Harris Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/16/2015
Release date: 11/01/2015
Ebook - 978-0-374-71515-1
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-374-53658-9
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