Uri Zvi Grinberg's prologue to Eyma gdola veyareah: Overt and covert ars poetica as a response to hostile criticism

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Uri Zvi Greenberg's prologue to his first Eretz-Yisrael book, Eyma Gedola Veyareach (Hedim, 1925) is an unparalleled literary phenomenon in the poetry of the generation, both in form and content. The prologue addresses the readers, speaking in the first person, and is signed by the poet, Uri Zvi. The ars poetica nature of the text leads the poet to polemicize openly with the literary community of his generation, particularly with the critics who disparaged his poems. At the same time the discourse functions as an exhibit that transmits the poetic keys of the book, and is full of allusions to the topoi that characterized the period of Grinberg's literary activity in Europe, and also influenced the literary design and content of Eyma Gedola Veyareach. The discovery of the manuscript of this prologue in Grinberg's posthumous works (Uri Zvi Grinberg archives, National Library, Jerusalem) reveals a different version, in which Grinberg calls Eyma Gedola Veyareach "a Hebrew brother to Mephistopheles." On the background of this explicit analogy, the links between Eyma Gedola Veyareach and its Yiddish predecessor, Mefisto, which was first published in Lwow [Lviv] in 1921 and in a second expanded edition in Warsaw in 1922 are examined in this paper, and a number of hypotheses are suggested concerning Uri Zvi Grinberg's decision to draw a veil over the link between the two poems and finally to print a different version of the prologue to Eyma Gedola Veyareach.
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)213-231
StatePublished - 2000

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