cover image Under a Bloodred Sky: Avigdor Hameiri’s War Stories and Poetry

Under a Bloodred Sky: Avigdor Hameiri’s War Stories and Poetry

Avigdor Hameiri, ed. and trans. from the Hebrew by Peter C. Appelbaum and Dan Hecht. Cherry Orchard, $24.95 trade paper (174p) ISBN 979-8-887190-67-9

Translators Appelbaum (Jewish Self Hate) and Hecht collect a gripping mix of stories and poems from Hungarian Israeli author Hameiri (1890–1970), Israel’s first poet laureate. At the beginning of WWI, Hameiri joined the Hungarian army and was captured by Russian forces in 1916. After surviving prisoner-of-war camps, Hameiri immigrated to Palestine, where he funneled the “terror of the battlefield” into fiction notable for its “mixture of horror, the unnatural, and bleak mystery.” “Christians (or, How My Hair Turned White Overnight),” for instance, details the horrors experienced by a Russian Jewish POW and opens with a tease: “How many of you have had the pleasure of seeing your own grave dug?” Hameiri also renders subtler moments, as in “On the Verge,” in which a sleep-deprived soldier dips into dreams featuring loved ones: “I’ve been dead for a month already and you didn’t even mourn my passing,” the soldier’s brother laments. The violence depicted is stark but not gratuitous, and is interwoven with moments of quiet, affecting beauty, such as in a scene from “Christians” in which the narrator meditatively recites a Hebrew prayer as artillery shells explode in the distance. This remarkable work rescues an important 20th-century Israeli voice from obscurity. (Mar.)