Lachower, Yeruḥam Fishel

views updated


LACHOWER, YERUḤAM FISHEL (1883–1947), critic and historian of modern Hebrew literature. Born in Chorzele, Poland, he began his career as a critic in 1904. In 1908 he moved to Warsaw serving as editor of various literary publications. After World War i he was appointed editor of *Ha-Tekufah and of the Stybel Publishing House. During the early 1920s Lachower lived in Germany and in 1927 settled in Ereẓ Israel. In Tel Aviv he was an editor of Moznayim, the literary organ of the Hebrew Writers Association, and of Keneset (1928), an annual periodical dedicated to studies on Ḥ.N. *Bialik.

Lachower's approach to literature is both critical and scholarly. He studies the literary method and conceptual framework of the author, quoting copiously from the work under discussion. But he also probes the author's motives, stressing the different and often contradictory trends in his work and personality. Lachower's own writing, at times, alternates between an objective, matter-of-fact, somewhat dry style and impressionistic musings couched in metaphorical, often ornate, language. During the early period he discusses contemporary authors of the modern national renaissance, e.g., S. Tchernichowsky, Ḥ.N. Bialik, Z. Shneur, U.N. Gnessin, and others. His detailed discussion of D. *Frischmann and M.J. *Berdyczewski shows a certain affinity in outlook between him and these two authors. He shunned the social-national approach to literature then current among his contemporaries. Instead of interpreting a work in the light of social conditions, he attempted to expound its intrinsic meaning. Besides the aesthetic aspects of literature, he was deeply interested in its philosophical and conceptual presuppositions.

In Ereẓ Israel Lachower devoted himself mainly to scholarly activity. Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah ("History of Modern Hebrew Literature," 4 vols., 1947–48) is an important contribution to the historiography of modern Hebrew literature. Ranging over a 200-year period – from M.Ḥ. Luzzatto to Bialik – the book is not uniform in character. Intended for secondary schools, the text is extensively illustrated with excerpts from the works under study. Its further value lies in the fact that it contains some information about little-known authors as well as bibliographical addenda. Lachower in his periodization of modern Hebrew literature supported the view that Moshe Ḥayyim *Luzzatto is the father of modern Hebrew literature both because of the new poetical character of his dramatic works and because he had exercised a profound influence on later authors, particularly on Abraham *Mapu. Although Lachower did not disregard the effect world literature had on Hebrew literary writing, he stressed the internal developments of Hebrew literature showing its uninterrupted continuity. The historical continuity of Hebrew literature and the cultural links which connect one period to the next preoccupied Lachower in his subsequent writings where he examined the problem more profoundly. Some of his later studies substantiate his views that mystical and kabbalistic themes had influenced modern Hebrew literature in the 18th century (for example – Luzzatto's plays). On the other hand, in some of his essays he points out the influence of Maimonides, Spinoza, and Goethe on Haskalah literature. His deep interest in the achievements of 19th-century Judaic studies in Hebrew (Ḥokhmat Yisrael) led to his detailed analysis of Nachman *Krochmal's philosophy of history.

Lachower's scholarly work on Bialik was a major contribution to the study of the poet. He was the first to publish certain of Bialik's writings – early versions of his poems and stories – and he compiled a five-volume collection of Bialik's letters (1935–39) – which was but a preliminary to his extensive but incomplete biography, Ḥ.N. Bialik, Ḥayyav vi-Yẓirato ("Ḥ.N. Bialik, his Life and Works," 3 vols., 1943–47). The work discusses in great detail the genesis of Bialik's poems and the Jewish and European sources which influenced them. Combining meticulous biographical-historical research and a genetic examination of the text, Lachower also attempted an aesthetic evaluation of the poet's works.

Many of his essays have been collected in book form: Mehkarim ve-Nisyonot ("Studies and Experiments," Warsaw, 1925); Rishonim va-Aḥaronim (1934–35, 19652), a collection of critical essays on authors from Moses Mendelssohn to the 1940s; Al Gevul ha-Yashan ve-he-Ḥadash ("Between Old and New," 1951); Ba-Teḥum u-mi-Ḥuẓ la-Teḥum ("Within and Without the Pale," 1953); and Shirah u-Maḥashavah ("Poetry and Thought," 1953).


S. Lachower, Fishel Lachower, Bibliografyah (1948); N. Goren, Mevakkerim be-Sifrutenu (1944), 213–9; B.M. Mikhali, Le-Yad ha-Ovnayim (1959), 188–99; S. Kramer, Mishmarot be-Sifrutenu (1959), 331–42. add. bibliography: M. Ungerfeld, "Bein P. Lachower le-Ḥ.N. Bialik," in: Ha-Do'ar, 51 (1972), 382–83; S. Kremer, "Lachower be-Zikato le-Omanut ha-Sippur," in: Moznayim, 34 (1972), 229–32.

[Samuel Werses]