Langer, Jiří Mordechai

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LANGER, JIŘÍ MORDECHAI

LANGER, JIŘÍ MORDECHAI (1894–1943), Czech poet and author, and a younger brother of the playwright František *Langer. Born in Prague, Jiří rebelled against his assimilatory upbringing and in 1913 went to Belz (Galicia), where he remained for some time at the court of the Rokeaḥ dynasty of ḥasidic rabbis. When he returned to Prague, he retained his ḥasidic garb and continued to lead a strictly observant life. On the outbreak of World War i, following a second visit to Belz, he was conscripted into the Austrian army but was released because of his religious inflexibility. He then became a teacher at a Jewish school in Vienna and Prague and wrote Hebrew poetry such as Piyyutim ve-Shirei Yedidut (1929). Langer applied Freudian theories to the interpretation of certain aspects of Jewish literature and ritual in such studies as Die Erotik der Kabbala (1923), Erotika kabaly (1991), Zur Funktion der juedischen Tuerpfortenrolle (1928), Die juedischen GebetriemenPhylakterien (1931), and Talmud. Ukázky a dějiny ("Talmud. Extracts and History," 1938, 1993, 1994). His outstanding literary achievements are, however, Devět bran Chasidů tajemství (1937, 1965, 1990, 1996; Nine Gates to the Ḥasidic Mysteries, 1961), a volume of ḥasidic tales which have also been translated into Italian and German, and Zpěvy zavržených ("Songs of the Rejected," 1937, 1993), verse ranging from 11th-century Spain to 19th-century Prague. Langer was a close friend of Franz *Kafka, whom he taught Hebrew, and of Max *Brod, who records in his autobiography that some of his works would never have been written without Langer's assistance. After the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, Langer escaped and entered Palestine as an illegal immigrant. In Palestine he wrote a second volume of Hebrew poetry, Me'at Ẓori (1943). Langer died in Tel Aviv. After the collapse of the Communist regime, his works were published in Czechoslovakia and in the Czech Republic.

bibliography:

J. Langer, Nine Gates (1961), vii–xxxii (introd. by F. Langer); M. Brod, Der Prager Kreis (1966); Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 287–8. add. bibliography: H. Carmel, "Mordechai Jiří Langer: Cabbalist, Writer and Poet," in: Review of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews, vol. 5 (1992–93), 93–126; J. Langer, Devět bran (1990), 9–47 (introduction by T. Pěkný); Lexikon české literatury 2/ii (1985); Slovník českých spisovatelů (1982).

[Avigdor Dagan /

Milos Pojar (2nd ed.)]

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Langer, Jiří Mordechai

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