OPHTHALMOLOGIC READINGS IN ONE-EYED LITERATURE

A Colloquium with Dr. Jan Kühne
Activity Date: 
Monday, Nov 27, 2017

It may seem ironic that one of the most successful and simultaneously conspicuously rare German comedies ever, was written by a German Jew in Tel Aviv, at the height of the GermanFinal Solution.
From an Israeli point of view, the irony consists in the fact that the most successful Hebrew drama so far, was written – despite early Hebrew language politics – originally in the German language, in Tel Aviv.
We are confronted with a twin-problem: In Germany, Sammy Gronemann’s 1942 play The Wise and the Fool ( שלמה המלך ושלמי הסנדלר ) was and still is unknown to audiences, whereas in Israel its author was forgotten under the name of its translator Nathan Alterman.
This dilemma is characteristic for the generation of German-Jewish immigrants in Palestine/Israel, as well as for its contemporary and academic reception.

In my presentation I showed two ways of how Sammy Gronemann dealt with the dual dilemma of being a German writer in a Hebrew context, and of being a Jew in a German context.
A symmetric bilingual Hebrew-German poem was discussed, as well as the innovation which Gronemann’s earlier play Jakob und Christian (1937) presents in the ancient tradition of the Comedy of Errors.
Gronemann himself was suggested as potential seventh author on a list of six rare German comic playwrights, which Erich Kästner had singled out in German literature.
For its overestimating of the serious gaze, Kästner had called German literature a ”One-Eyed Literature”, in lack of a laughing eye.

The debate, which was triggered by the two respondents, Prof. Freddie Rokem and Dr. Lina Barouch, discussed – among other topics – ideological engagement in humour and irony, literary bilingual interpolations of Hebrew and German, and Gronemann’s dramaturgical strategy in relation to analytical concepts.