Avidan, David 1934–1995
Avidan, David 1934–1995
PERSONAL: Born February 21, 1934, in Tel Aviv, Israel; died May 11, 1995, in Tel Aviv, Israel; son of Dov and Inna (Neikrug) Avidan. Education: Attended Hebrew University. Hobbies and other interests: Karate, parapsychology.
CAREER: Poet, essayist, playwright, artist, and filmmaker. Also served as head of experimental nonprofit organizations and program director of Poetry Midnight at Habimah. Exhibitions: Solo exhibitions included Israeli Museum, Jerusalem, Israel, 1969. Works featured at Martha-Jackson Gallery, New York, NY, 1974–76.
MEMBER: Poetry Society of America, Hebrew Association of Writers, Israel Writers Union (founder and member of board), Film & TV Directors Guild Ltd. (founder), Painters & Sculptors Association of Israel.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grant from Israel Zangwill Fund, 1966; Abraham Woursell prize, University of Vienna; Israel Prime Minister prize; Bialik Poetry Award, 1994.
Berazim 'Arufe Sefatayim: Shirim (title means "Lipless Faucets"; poetry), Arad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1954, reprinted, Bavel (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2001.
Ube'ayot Ishiyot: Shirim (title means "Personal Problems"; poetry), Arad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1957.
Sikum Benayim (title means "Interim"; poetry), 'Akhshav (Jerusalem, Israel), 1960.
Shire Lahats (title means "Pressure Poems"), Alef (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1962.
Mashehu Bishvil Mishehu: Mivhar Shirim, 1952–1964 (title means "Something for Somebody: Selected Poems, 1952–1964"), Shoken (Jerusalem, Israel), 1964.
David Avidan Magish Te'atron Mufshat: Mahar Atah met Adoni: Karambol (title means "David Avidan Introduces Abstract Theater; Tomorrow You're Dead Sir: Carambole"), 'Akshav (Jerusalem, Israel), 1965.
Megaovertone: Selected Poems, Thirtieth Century Press (London, England), 1966.
(With Carmela Tal-Baron) Or Shel Pil; Resef-Rishumim (title means "Elephantasy"), Ha-Me'ah Ha-Sheloshim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1967.
Shirim Bilti-'Efshariyimu (title means "Impossible Poems"), Ha-Me'ah Ha-Sheloshim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1968.
Duah ishi "Al Masa" L.S.D. (title means "LSD Trip—Personal Report"; poetry), Ha-Me'ah Ha-Sheloshim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1968.
Shirim Hitsoniyim (title means "Playback Poems"), 'Eked (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1970.
Shirim Shimushiyim (title means "Practical Poems"), [Tel Aviv, Israel], 1973.
Ha-Psikhi'ator Ha-Elektroni Sheli: Shemoneh Sihot Otentiyot 'Im Mehashev (title means "My Electronic Psychiatrist"), A. Levin-Epshtin-Modan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1974, reprinted, Bavel, (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2001.
Shire Milhamah U-Meha'ah (title means "War and Protest Poems"), A. Levin-Epshtin-Modan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1976.
Shire Ahavah U-min (title means "Love and Sex Poems"), A. Levin-Epshtin-Modan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1976.
Tishdorot Me-Lavyanh-Rigul: Shirim, Tishdorot, Mismakhim, A. Levin-Epshteyn-Modan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1978, published as Cryptograms from a Telestar; Poems, Transmissions, Documents, Thirtieth Century Press (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1981.
Shirim 'Ekroniyim (title means "Axiological Poems"), Masadah (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1978.
Anam: Energyah Meshurbetet, Sifre ha-Mi'ah Ha-Sheloshim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1979, published in Hebrew and English as Sey: Scribbled Energy, Thirtieth Century Press (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1979.
(Editor) Moseh Bahir, Ha-Mered Be-Ya'ar-Ha-Yanshufim (title means "The Rebellion in Owl Forest"), Sifre Ha-Me'ah Ha-Sheloshim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1983.
Lelot Tel-Aviv 'im David Avidan: Ha-Madrikh Le-Haye Ha-Lailah (title means "Tel Aviv by Night with David Avidan"), photographs by Orli Gu'etah, Tirosh (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1983.
Sefer Ha-efsharuyot Shirim Ve-khule (title means "A Book of Possibilities, Poems, and More"), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1985.
Mah Hipes Kurt Valhaim Etsel Ha-Apifyor Ha-Polani? (title means "What Did Kurt Waldheim Expect from the Polish Pope?"), Sifre Ha-Me'ah Ha-Sheloshim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1987.
Avidaniyum 20: Metav Shirim, Tisdorot, Mismakhim Vekhu' 1965–1985 (poetry), Keter (Jerusalem, Israel), 1987.
Ha-Mifrats Ha-Aharon: Shire Sufat-Ha-Midbar Ve-Shiv'Ah Shire-Reka' (title means "The Latest Gulf"), Sifre Ha-Me'Ah Ha-Sheloshim: Tirosh (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1991.
Alilot Dani Mehonani, illustrated by Dafnah Shechori, Yaron Golan-Arlit (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1992.
Dani Mehonani Bi-Nyu York (for children), illustrated by Ya'el-Shahar Sarid, Yaron Golan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1993.
Rosh La-Shu'alim (title means "Head of All Foxes"; for children), illustrated by Dafna Shechori, Yaron Golan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1994.
Adamillah, Yedi'ot Aharonot: Ha-Kibuts Ha-Me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2001.
Also author of The End of the Season Is the End of the World (play), 1962. Poems posthumously published in American publications, including Prairie Schooner and Massachusetts Review. Also author of exhibition catalogues, including No: Notes and Codes Regarding Intercodes and Monoprojections, Israel Museum (Jerusalem, Israel), 1969. Work included in anthologies, including 'Anaf: Me'asef Le-Sifrut Tse'irah, Shoken (Jerusalem, Israel), 1963, and Now: Poems by Jehuda Amihai, David Avidan; Stories by Aharon Appelfeld, Itzhak Orpaz, Ah'shav Publishers (Jerusalem, Israel). Author of screenplay for films Message from the Future, 1981, You Name It, Split, Sex, and Telepathic Codes.
TRANSLATOR TO HEBREW
Jean Anouilh, Hazmanah La-Armonu (title means "Invitation to the Chateau"), Merkaz Yidre'eli lideramah le-yad Bet Tsevi (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1987.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet (video recording), Ha-Bimah (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1988.
Friedrich Schiller, Don Karlos, Bet Tsevi (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1989.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Shahaf, Bet Tsevi (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1991.
Avidan's works have been translated into many languages, including Arabic, Danish, English, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Russian, Slovak, Vietnamese, and Yiddish.
ADAPTATIONS: Avidan's poems have been adapted for the musical score Samson the Hero, music by Joan Frank Williams, Israel Music Institute (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1975.
SIDELIGHTS: Although relatively unknown in the United States, David Avidan was a gifted avant-garde poet and a prominent part of the Israeli literary world. He emerged in the mid-1950s with other mainly native-born Israelis, like Yehuda Amichai and Natan Zach, who emphasized understatement and a colloquial style. Avidan was a prolific writer, having published some twenty books of poetry by the time he died at the age of sixty-one. He was also a painter and a film-maker and, as suggested by Gabriel Levin in Modern Hebrew Literature, a "gadfly and agent provocateur of the Israeli literary scene." Levin described Avidan's approach to poetry as "anything goes" and revealed that he often recorded his ideas. This approach, according to Levin, allowed "the poem to fall on the page with the same apparent ease as it unfolds, or rather proliferates, in the poet's mind."
Although Avidan's poetry was not well known by the American public, other poets recognized his talent. In an article in the Phoenix New Times, Joshua Beckman was quoted as saying that Avidan's poems are "crazy and really beautiful." Avidan's calling was in the arts, but he was also interested in technology and industry. As Levin pointed out, Avidan's poems often incorporate the "The vocabulary of computer processing, biofeedback, video, electronics, and telestar transmissions."
Avidan's interest in technology also took him into the realm of science fiction, both in his poetry of the 1960s and 1970s and in his films. His film Message from the Future, which he made in 1981, focuses on a time traveler who goes back to 1985 to instigate World War III, which will ultimately lead to the formation of a new society in the future.
At times, Avidan's poetry reflects a brutal cynicism, yet he was also adept at writing in a playful manner. According to Nissim Calderon, writing in Modern Hebrew Literature, Avidan's love poems reflect "a state of contradiction: it is both elevating and galling." Although he believed in the grandiosity of love, his love poems are far from sentimental. "He detested compromise," wrote Calderon, "therefore, a love that admitted compromise was no love for him." Calderon described Avidan's poem "And Thou Art Permitted to Every Man" as having rhymes that "are deliberately gray and chilly." She concluded that his greatest strength as a poet was "his ability to express his greatest pains with the simplest, most matter-of-fact honesty."
Calderon commented on Avidan's 1995 death by noting: "Today, when they bury Avidan, it is possible to say—without fear of exaggeration, or of saying things merely to praise the dead—that he wrote some of the greatest love poems in Hebrew." A contributor to the New York Times, marking Avidan's death, noted that the poet "helped the biblical tongue evolve into a modern, living language."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Iton 77, Volume 62, 1985, Eyal Megged, "Avidan ke-Ben Adam," p. 42; Volume 77, 1988, Amos Levitan, "Shirah merukenet," p. 96.
Modern Hebrew Literature, spring-summer, 1986, Gabriel Levin, "Voices in Poetry: David Avidan; Avoth Yeshurun," pp. 21-26; spring-summer, 1996, Nissim Calderon and Lisa Katz, "There Once Was a Truly Great Love," pp. 33-35.
Monthly of the Association of Hebrew Writers, Volume 54, number 2, 1982, Hillel Barzel, "Ha-Ani ha-Mashkif al Atzmo mi-Bahutz; Al ha-Poetica shel David Avidan," pp. 34-40; Volume 60, numbers 8-9, 1987, Giora Lashem, "Oteh Lashon ha-Namer," pp. 16-20.
Phoenix New Times, November 11, 1999, Tricia Wasbotten Parker, "Meter Man."
World Literature Today, autumn, 1977, Louis J. Shein, review of Kriptogrammy's Borta Razvedputnika: Sbornik Stixotvorenij (Russian translation of poems), p. 674.
Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature Web site, http://www.ithl.org.il/ (May 10, 2005), "David Avidan."
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 14, 1995, p. 7.
New York Times, May 13, 1995, p. A11.