Monday, November 14, 2016



Collective identities grow from a sense of the past, and the theatre very forcefully participates in the ongoing representations of and debates about the past, sometimes by contesting them and sometimes by reinforcing them.

The lively interest shown by the Hebrew reading public for translated literature in general has been an important factor in the renaissance of the modern Hebrew language and literature that began in the late 1790s

In spite of the fact that translations from the Scandinavian literature are far fewer than the translations from the “major” literature, which meant most for Hebrew culture (Russian, German, English and French, in that order) or the “minor” literature, which had a special importance for the Hebrew culture (namely Yiddish and Polish), the lively interest shown for the Scandinavian literature is quite remarkable.

The more than 270 titles compiled bibliography by Freddy Rokem, extends over a period of almost 90 years starting in 1894 with a translation of Andersen’s tales into Hebrew, bear concrete witness to the Hebrew reader’s fascination with the literature of Scandinavia.  This remarkable fact is not as exceptional as it may at first seem to be.

Scandinavian writers like Herman Bang, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Knut Hamsun, Henrik Ibsen, Jens Peter Jacobsen, Selma Lagerløf and August Strindberg (to name a few of the most prominent ones ), were translated almost immediately into the major continental languages and at the time of their publication their works were considered to be in the avant-garde of the contemporary literary scene.

In some cases the Scandinavian writers were even regarded with greater esteem in the rest of Europe than in their respective home countries. A large part of the works translated into Hebrew was indeed by these internationally recognized Scandinavians. In light of the fact that the Hebrew letters adopted the literary standards.

Collective identities grow from a sense of the past, and the theatre very forcefully participates in the ongoing representations of and debates about the past, sometimes by contesting them and sometimes by reinforcing them.

In his examination of the ways in which the theatre after World War II has presented different aspects of the Holocaust, Freddie Rokem shows us that by "performing history" actors - as witnesses for the departed witnesses - bring the historical past and the theatrical present together, models and tastes of the cultures to which Jews had immediate access, namely Russian and to some extent Polish and German,  it is not surprising that Scandinavian works already available in the language of these cultures were to be translated into Hebrew.

Rokem analyzes the significance of stage representations of the Holocaust in different national contexts: the United States and Europe for performances about the French Revolution and Israel for performances about the Holocaust. By pointing out both the great diversity and the common features of these performances, he draws attention to the complex collective efforts and the creativity of playwrights, directors, designers and actors as they connect their theatrical energies to a specific historical past. He also focuses on the ways in which audiences in different cultures have been affected by and even had an influence on the ideological debates embedded in these performances. 

Rokem looks at plays and performances by Yehoshua Sobol, Dudu Ma'ayan and Hanoch Levin in Israel; Peter Brook, Ariane Mnouchkin and Ingmar Bergman in Europe; and Orson Welles, Herbert Blau and Robert Wilson in the United States. Drawing upon these and upon his own life in Europe, Israel and the United States, Rokem makes us aware of the critical interaction between the failures of history and the efforts to create viable and meaningful works of art.

Freddie Rokem is the Emanuel Herzikowitz Professor for 19th and 20th Century Art and teaches in the Department of Theatre Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he served as the Dean of the Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts (2002-2006); he is also a permanent visiting Professor at Helsinki University, Finland. 

During 2007-2008 he was a visiting Professor at Stanford University, the Free University in Berlin and UC Berkeley. He is editor of Theatre Research International (2006-2009). Rokem’s book Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre published by University of Iowa Press (2000; paperback 2007) received the ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) Prize for best theatre studies book in 2001. Strindberg’s Secret Codes was published by Norvik Press (2004) 

Published with kind permission