The re-generation of exile : the orphan figure in Israeli literature as an agent of diasporic imagination

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2007-05-19
Authors
Raizen, Michal
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Abstract

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the birth of a national literature invested with over two millennia of discursive underpinnings, served to foreground a tension between the physical realization of the Jewish national homecoming narrative and the endless deferral of this realization in the realm of the Jewish literary imagination. This tension, often characterized in terms of a binary opposition between Zion and Exile, occupies center stage in the critical discourse surrounding Israeli literature of the late twentieth century. The aim in this work is to challenge the motion of collapsing this inherently ambiguous tension into the confines of a binary opposition. The discussion, which draws upon poststructuralist and postmodern theoretical approaches, centers on the orphan figure as a literary embodiment of both the tension and its ambiguities. Through my analysis of four works of Israeli fiction--Eli Amir's Scapegoat, Amos Oz' A Tale of Love and Darkness and Panther in the Basement, and Ronit Matalon's The One Facing Us--I demonstrate how the orphan figure functions as an agent of diasporic imagination that serves to perpetuate the exilic essence of the Jewish literary imagination while negotiating the boundaries of a national narrative predicated on homecoming and historical closure.

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