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War Poet

In new translations of his poems about soldiers, disappearance, and life cycles, Israeli poet Yitzhak Laor uses biblical allusions, humor, and rage to explore the absurdities of modern Israeli life

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I’ll leave you in writing this version in Hebrew, our common ground
for love and feud, separate bank accounts and constant vigilance
against the State that lies in Hebrew (I’ll be faithful to the truth,
even to its punctuation): “I stepped out,” I’ll write, “I left the
hotel,” “I took the road,” let’s say “heading north,” “in,” say, “a Volvo
truck,” “its color, gray,” and let’s say “I traveled,” but did I drive?
or didn’t I? “I disappeared, forgive me” (I’ll add for sympathy’s sake),
into this darkness like a fevered daze. If to begin,
begin from the beginning, nothing’s too obvious, In the beginning
was without form and void, the rest must be disputed (without yearning,
without regret), shorn, turned, shook, burned, “I may come back,”
“I may not come back,” “I may give up” or “return to stay.”


אַשְׁאִיר לָךְ בִּכְתָב אֶת הַגּרְִסָא הַזֹּאת בְּעִבְרִית, בְּסִיסֵנוּ הַמְּשֻׁתָּף
לָאַהֲבָה וּלְמָדוֹן וּלְחֶשְׁבּוֹנוֹת בַּנקְ נפְִרָדִים וּלְהִתְגּוֹננְוּת מַתְמֶדֶת
מִפְּניֵ זדְוֹן הַשִּׁלְטוֹן וּשְׁקָרָיו בְּעִבְרִית (אַקְפִּיד עַל
הָאֱמֶת, עַל סִימָניֵ הַפִּסּוּק והְַדְּפוּס): “יצָאתִי” אֶכְתֹּב לָךְ, “מֵהַמָּלוֹן
הָלַכְתִּי”, “בַּכְּבִישׁ”, נגַּיִד, “צָפוֹנהָ”, “עָלִיתִי עַל”, נגַּיִד, “מַשָּׂאִית
מִסּוּג ווֹלְבוֹ”, נגַּיִד, “בְּצֶבַע אָפֹר”, נגַּיִד, “נסַָעְתִּי”, נהַָגתְִּי?
לֹא נהַָגתְִּי? “נעֱֶלַמְתִּי, סִלְחִי לִי” (אוֹסִיף מֵמַד רָאוּי לְאַהֲדָה)
בַּחֲשֵׁכָה הַזֹּאת, כְּמוֹ סְחַרְחֹרֶת מִבְּחִילָה, אִם לְהַתְחִיל
לְהַתְחִיל מֵהַתְחָלָה, שׁוּם דָּבָר אֵינוֹ מוּבָן מֵאֵלָיו, בְּרֵאשִׁית
הָיהָ תֹּהוּ וּבֹהוּ ואְֶת כָּל הַשְּׁאָר ישֵׁ לְעַרְעֵר (בְּלִי לְהִתְגּעְַגּעֵַ
בְּלִי לְהִצְטַעֵר) לְבַקֵּר, לְנעֵַר, לְנקֵַּר, לְכַעֵר, לְבַעֵר, “אוּלַי אָשׁוּב”
“אוּלַי לֹא אָשׁוּב”, “אוּלַי אֲותֵַּר” אוּלַי “אֶחְזֹר כְּדֵי לְהִשָּׁאֵר”

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Moshe says:

Someone should learn idiomatic Hebrew before attempting a translation:

לְמִי יש כֹּחַ לִשְכוֹל

means; “who has (or no one has) strength for ‘radiophonic’ mourning? It has nothing to do with “hold the radiophone”.

Pilar says:

Someone should learn that translating poetry literally is often a terrible idea.

this is an embarrassing translation.

Pilar says:

What’s embarrassing? It seems to me that it puts the poem into actual English…. You do better.

Michael says:

Laor is an execrable poet and egomaniacal blowhard, but is a pet of the Israeli far left and so it was only a matter of time before he was imported into the U.S. Presumably his new friends at n+1 and elsewhere don’t know (or don’t care) about the rape accusations either.

Take care soldier is one of the worst, arrogant poems that I have ever read

Shalom Freedman says:

Yitzhak Laor is one of the most vicious anti- Israel figures in Israel. He is so far off the wall in his hatred of Israel that he openly identifies with Israel’s enemies.

Of all the tens nay hundreds of Israeli poets he is the last one I would think ‘Tablet’ should feature.

I saw with my own eyes in ’88 the wreckage of what Israel did to the Sinai peninsula in ’73. I can only describe what I saw of the scorched and battle scarred earth there that I saw as looking like that of the aftermath of a rape.

Michael says:

Um, Jules, Egypt attacked the Sinai in ’73. And you were there 15 years later, so whatever it was that you say you saw, doesn’t really reflect “what Israel did to the Sinai peninsula in ’73.” A little logic would be nice.

…and Israel in ’67 in which war the peninsula was seized…and so the senseless cycle goes on without cease.


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War Poet

In new translations of his poems about soldiers, disappearance, and life cycles, Israeli poet Yitzhak Laor uses biblical allusions, humor, and rage to explore the absurdities of modern Israeli life

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