Avidan, David

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AVIDAN, DAVID (1934–1995), Israeli poet. Avidan was born in Tel Aviv. During his student years at the Hebrew University (1952–54) he became intimate with the group of poets called Li-Kra'at ("Towards") after the journal of that name which they published and to which Yehuda *Amichai and Nathan *Zach belonged. Like theirs, his first volume, Berazim Arufei Sefatayim (1954), was unfavorably reviewed, though it was to transpire that these poets contributed more than others to the transformation which took place in the new Hebrew poetry and they are today considered the characteristic representatives of the poetry of the 1950s. Their poetry represents a reaction against the poetry of Abraham *Shlonsky and Nathan *Alterman and their followers of the "Palmaḥ generation." They attempted to reflect the problems associated with the existence of the individual, seen both in their subjects and in their vocabulary and images, which were less literary and closer to the realities and landscape (particularly the urban settings) of Israel.

Unlike the majority of them, however, Avidan continued to develop and change, a fact which is closely connected with his poetics. His early poetry was social, under the clear influence of communist ideology, but he abandoned it at an early age and social revolution gave way to individual revolution, with contempt for social and poetic conventions. Characteristic is his mockery of the masses and accepted social norms with an emphasis on the individuality of the poet. More than any other contemporary poet he abandoned the usual poetic language and coined new words, and did not hesitate to describe his own and other thought processes in an almost detached manner. This refusal to follow conventional paths brought in its train a fear of old age and death, as well as a profound interest in science and technology of the future. These subjects already appear in various forms in his earliest poetry.

In addition to the volume mentioned he published Be'ayot Ishiyot ("Personal Problems," 1957), Sikkum Benayim ("Interim," 1960), Shirei Laḥaẓ (1962), Ma-she-hu Bishevil Mi-she-hu ("Something for Somebody," 1964), Shirim Bilti Efshari'im and Doaḥ Ishi al Masa l.s.d. ("Impossible Poems," one volume, 1970), Shirim Ḥiẓoni'im ("External Poems," 1970), Shirim Shimushi'im ("Practical Poems," 1973), Shirei Milḥamah ve-Meḥa'ah ("Poems of War and Protest," 1976), Shirim Ekroniyim ("Axiomatic Poems," 1978), Avidaniyum 20 (1987), and the collection Berazim Arufei Sefatayim, which appeared posthumously (2001). He also published a play, David Avidan Magish Te'atron Mufshat (1965).

A selection of his poems written between 1952 and 1966 has appeared in English translation (mostly by himself) under the title Megaovertone.

Towards the end of the 1960s Avidan applied himself to other artistic pursuits, holding a number of exhibitions and producing short films, but without the success which accompanied his poetry. During his last years, Avidan, one of the best-known bohemian figures on the artistic scene of Tel Aviv, suffered from severe asthma attacks and lived in abject poverty. M. Ben published a long interview with him, which comes close to a biographical portrait, entitled David Avidan (2003).


G. Moked, in: Mevo'ot, 4 (Dec. 9, 1954); idem, in: Ha'areẓ (July 21, 1961). add. bibliography: Idem, Ḥoveret ha-Mukdeshet le-David Avidan (1995); H. Shaham, Hedim shel Niggun: Shirat Dor ha-Palmaḥ ve- Ḥavurat Likrat be-Zikatah le-Shirat Alterman (1997). website: www.ithl.org.il.

[Abraham Balaban]

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Avidan, David

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