Monday, May 1, 2023

"Hebrew, Arabic and Death"

Kafka wrote in German which was the language of the educated classes even though he was an inhabitant of Prague. During the time of Peter the Great, when Russians strived to be Europeanized, the aristocracy were Francophiles. It’s curious, in this regard, that Peter's dream of an imperial Russia is today shared by Putin who is famously xenophobic about the EU.  Language has always been a signifier of both class and ethnicity. Yiddish a combination of Hebrew and German became the lingua franca of the population of impoverished Eastern European and Russian Jews while rabbinical scholars employed the language of the Talmud, Hebrew. You might say that Yiddish was a demotic language like Czech but it's not surprising that the secular literature of writers I.B. Singer and the politics of the socialist bund were born from Yiddish. Language reflects identity as does art but in a different and more widespread way. Lots of people speak French but there are only a limited number of Monets. In the current Ukraine conflict, the indigenous language is something the invaders have tried to crush in the hope of dissipating cultural ties. NB "And everything in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and Death" writes Ruth Margalit quoting Yehuda Amichai's epigraph to Anton Shammas's Arabesques. ("Writing the Nakba in Hebrew" by Ruth Margalit,The New York Review of Books, 4/20/23)

read "God Bless Pig Latin America" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for the animation of Erotomania


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