No Way Out: Brenner and the War
The second Aliyah brought a large number of Hebrew authors to Palestine, some of them among the greatest Hebrew writers of all time. 1 Those who remained endured the privations of the First World War, which became particularly severe throughout its final year, but few of them wrote about it. In fact, within the large corpus of belletristic writing in Hebrew and Yiddish at the time, there is little devoted to the Jewish experience in the First World War. Many critics and scholars of the period, in addition to later commentators, affirmed (and some lamented) that the output of Jewish war writing was modest in Yiddish as well as Hebrew. 2 Nonetheless there exists a substantial body of such work about which little is known to this day. At the time, it seems, Hebrew literature had to serve greater aims than the individual responses of soldiers in a foreign war soon after the Balfour Declaration. The most powerful responses were, with some notable exceptions, 3 written some time after the events or by writers, such as Y. H. Brenner, who were not combatants but were victimized by the war nonetheless. 4
1 U. N. Gnessin (1907), David Shimoni (1909), S. Y.Agnon (1907), Y. H. Brenner (1909), and Dvora Baron (1911).
2 See Avner Holtzman, Avigdor Hameiri vesifrut hamil[hdotu ]amah. Ma[ayin ]arakhot, 1986, p. 33; [Hdotu ]anan [Hdotu ]ever, ed., U.Z Greenberg: ta[ayin ]arukhah bamil[hamza ]at shemonim. Jerusalem: Beit hasefarim hale[hamza ]umi veha[hamza ]universita[hamza ]i, 1977, p.17.
3 Notably, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Tchernichowski, and Hameiri and their works