Hameiri (Feuerstein), Avigdor

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HAMEIRI (Feuerstein ), AVIGDOR (1890–1970), Hebrew poet, novelist, and translator. Hameiri was born in Dávidháza, Carpatho-Ukraine (then Hungary). His first Hebrew poem "Ben he-Atid," which appeared in the weekly Ha-Miẓpeh (1907), was followed by others in various Hebrew journals. His first volume of verse, entitled Mi-Shirei Avigdor Feuerstein, was published in 1912. In 1916 he was captured by the Russians while serving as an Austrian officer on the Russian front, imprisoned in Siberia, and released in 1917 after the October Revolution. In 1921 he immigrated to Palestine, joined the staff of the daily Haaretz, and edited several critical journals. In Tel Aviv, he founded the first Hebrew social satirical theater, Ha-Kumkum (1932). Hameiri published various novels, short stories, and poetry collections that gave literary expression to his war experiences, the Third Aliyah, and later, the Holocaust. He also translated into Hebrew works of Heine, Schiller, Arnold Zweig, Stefan Zweig, and others.

Hameiri belongs to the earliest exponents of expressionism in Hebrew poetry. Sustained pathos, and strained and occasional exaggerated figures of speech characterize his work. He attacked the stagnation of Jewish life, described the gruesomeness and the frenzy of hatred that engulfed all of humanity during World War i and particularly the vulnerability of Jews to its consequences. After he settled in Palestine, he castigated the new Jewish society for not realizing its declared ideals. The key figures in his poetry are his mother, whom he lost in his childhood, and his grandfather, who raised him; the former becomes the symbol of Jewish motherhood and the latter – age-old Israel. Hameiri's power as a storyteller is revealed mainly in his realistic war stories. Their central theme is the peculiarly tragic fate of the Jewish soldier fighting wars which are not his. He loathes the bloodshed and the bestiality of combat, and yet, since he is an outsider, is unable to find comfort in the companionship of his fellow soldiers. In 1968 he was awarded the Israel Prize.

Sefer ha-Shirim ("The Book of Poems," 1933) contains his complete poetry up to its publication. His subsequent works of poetry included Ha-Moked ha-Ran ("The Singing Pyre," 1944), collected poems from 1933 to 1944; Ḥalomot shel Beit-Rabban ("Schoolboy Dreams," 1945), and Be-Livnat ha-Sappir ("In a Pavement of Sapphire," 1962). His works of fiction include the novel Ha-Shigga'on ha-Gadol (1950; The Great Madness, 1952; 1985; 1989); Be-Geihinnom shel Mattah ("In Lower Hell," novel, 1932; 1989); Tenuvah ("Produce," 19472); Ha-Mashi'aḥ ha-Lavan ("The White Messiah," novel, 1948); Bein Laylah le-Laylah ("Between the Nights," short stories, 1944); and Sodo shel Socrates ("Socrates' Secret," historical novel, 1955). A list of his works translated into English appears in Goell, Bibliography, 861–81, 2123–34.


S. Streit, Penei ha-Sifrut, 2 (1939), 280–91; Waxman, Literature, 4 (1960), 174–8, 320–4; R. Wallenrod, The Literature of Modern Israel (1956), index; S. Halkin, Modern Hebrew Literature (1950), 121, 154; S. Samet, Eifoh Hem ha-Yom? (1970), 21–27. add. bibliography: Y. Rabikov, "A. HemiriMeshorer ha-Yahadut ha-Loḥemet," in: Hara'ayon, 17–18 (1970), 58–62; G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 2 (1983), 313–18; H. Yaoz, "Livetei Zehut ve-Livetei Kiyumiyut Yehudit bi-Yeẓirat Hameiri," in: Zehut, 3 (1983), 217–24; A. Holtzman, Avigdor Hameiri ve-Sifrut ha-Milḥamah (1986); A. Holtzman, Ha-Zahav ve-Sigav: Bein Bialik le-A. Hameir," in: Halel le-Bialik (1989), 337–48.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]