Hayim Nahman Bialik Poet of Hebrew Avner Holtzman

Jewish Lives
Publication date:
07 Mar 2017
Yale University Press
264 pages: 210 x 146 x 24mm
1 b-w illus.

A moving inquiry into the dramatic life, epic success, and ultimate tragedy of the great Hebrew poet

By the time he was twenty-eight, Hayim Nahman Bialik was already considered the National Hebrew Poet. He had only published a single collection, but his deeply personal poetry established a profound link between the secular and the traditional that would become paramount to a national Jewish identity in the twentieth century. When he died unexpectedly in 1934, the outpouring of grief was unprecedented, confirming him as a father figure for the Zionist movement in Palestine, and around the world.
Using extensive research and elegant readings of Bialik’s poems, Avner Holtzman investigates the poet’s dramatic life, complex personality, beloved verse, and continued popularity. This clear-eyed and thorough biography explores how Bialik overcame intense personal struggles to become a charismatic literary leader at the core of modern Hebrew culture.

Avner Holtzman is professor of Hebrew literature, Tel Aviv University, and a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He is author or editor of more than fifty books and has taught and extensively studied prominent modern Hebrew authors including Bialik, Micha Yosef Berdichevsky, and others.

“This is a remarkable story, superbly told, of an orphan, who gave generations of children something to sing about; an unrequited lover, who reclaimed Hebrew as the language of love; and of a tortured, modern poet, who returned prophecy to Israel.”—David G. Roskies, The Jewish Theological Seminary

“Avner Holtzman guides us with authority and elegance through the major points in the life of the foremost modern Hebrew poet, and provides answers to the puzzles surrounding his poetry, personality, and the immense influence he exerted on his contemporaries and future generations.”—Shachar Pinsker, author of Literary Passports: The Making of Modernism: Hebrew Fiction in Europe

“The work of a remarkable Israeli scholar whose exquisite aesthetic sensibility combines with a positivist sense of historical accuracy and detail.”—William Cutter, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"A careful chronology of [Bialik's] turbulent life . . . A clear and concise biography."—ArtsFuse

"Well-researched."—Washington Jewish Week