Great Tranquillity (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
In Yehuda Amichai’s latest translated collection of poems, Great Tranquillity: Questions and Answers, the author continues to focus upon the motifs that concerned him in his earlier works: the challenge and anguish of continual eruptions of war, the constant awareness of the distant and recent past, and of the historical significance of daily events. He is particularly preoccupied with the themes of time, memory, biblical tradition, and the relationships of lovers and of fathers and sons. In emotional tone, the poems range from despair to buoyancy, from melancholy to a zestful celebration of life.
In poem after poem, Amichai’s lovers are caught in the trap of time. They are “poor in years and even days” but rich “in minutes and seconds.” For them, time is always rushing by. The passing of a day makes changes as irrevocable as the passing of thousands of years. Sometimes it seems to the poet that all things pass without leaving a trace. People picnic where once a battle was fought and, as the reality of the battle has passed, so too when the picnickers leave, all marks of their having been there will disappear as well: “the view will be smooth as oblivion.” Similarly, “An hour turns into a knife/ To be used only once.”
More often, however, Amichai stresses the endless continuity of events and the significance of...
(The entire section is 1128 words.)
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