Zach, Nathan

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ZACH, NATHAN (1930– ), Hebrew poet. Born in Berlin, Zach was taken to Palestine by his parents in 1935 and grew up in Haifa. He studied at the Hebrew University and began publishing poetry in the early 1950s in the new journal Likrat ("Towards"), which he edited together with Benjamin Hrushovski. A leading member of a group which sought to free Hebrew poetry from pathos, ideological encumbrance, and an over-symbolical texture, he was also active in founding the journal Akhshav. In the early 1960s he edited (together with Ori Bernstein) another new journal, Yokhani. From 1968 to 1979 he lived in England and completed his Ph.D. thesis on English Literature at the University of Essex. After his return to Israel, he lectured at Tel Aviv University and was appointed professor at Haifa University. His first collection, Shirim Rishonim (1955), was followed by Shirim Shonim (1961), Bi-Mekom Ḥalom (1966), Kol he-Ḥalav ve-ha-Devash (1966), and Nathan Zach (1962), a selection of his poetry together with critical notes by the editor, Dan Tsalka. Later collections include, among others, Ẓefonit Mizraḥit ("North by Northeast," 1979), Anti-Meḥikon ("Hard to Remember," 1984), Keivan she-Ani ba-Sevivah ("Because I Am Around," 1996) and Ha-Zamir Kevar Lo Gar Po ("The Nightingale No Longer Lives Here," 2004). No doubt one of the seminal voices in contemporary Hebrew poetry, a writer who had a decisive influence on other, also younger poets, Zach's nonsymbolic, nonallusive diction marks a conscious break from the literary tradition, particularly from the poetic expression of A. *Shlonsky and N. *Alterman. Zach's oeuvre displays a variety of themes and genres and an astounding virtuosity of language, avoiding sentimentality and highlighting simple imagery. Full of humor, irony, and sophistication, and characterized by dramatic immediacy, his poems contemplate the transience of relationships, the folly of humans, love and death. Repetitions, wordplay, and a distinct rhythmic quality typify many of his poems. Together with Rashed Ḥussein he translated Arabic folk songs, Dekalim u-Temarim (1967). Zach also published Zeman ve-Ritmus eẓel Bergson ve-ha-Shirah ha-Modernit (1966) and a collection of essays, Kavei Avir ("Airlines," 1983); he edited the selected works of Ya'akov *Steinberg (1963). His book Mot Imi ("The Death of My Mother," 1997) is an impressive, moving homage to his mother, combining prose and poetry, the descriptive and the meditative. Bodily decrepitude and mental frailty are central themes in the book, as well as the portrayal of the mother, of Italian origin, as a stranger in a country which was to be her home. Zach also published a number of books for children, including Ha-Nesher ha-Gadol (2001) and Devorah, Devorah ("Devorah, the Bee," 2001). Together with poet Moshe Dor, Zach edited the anthology The Burning Bush: Poems from Modern Israel (1977). He also translated several plays for the Hebrew stage, by Max Frisch and Bertolt Brecht. He was awarded the Bialik Prize (1982), the Israel Prize (1995), and the Acum Prize for his life work (2003). Several collections appeared in translation: Against Parting (1967), The Static Element (1982), Lost Continent (French: 1989), Selected Poems (Italian: 1996; 1998), Collected Poems for Children (Italian: 2003). In 2004, Zach received an honorary doctorate from the University of Geneva for "his contribution to the renovation of the poetry of the second half of the twentieth century." A list of his poems translated into English appears in Goell, Bibliography, 1790–93, and further information is available at the ithl website at


G. Levin, "A Different Matter Altogether: N. Zach," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 5:3 (1979), 43–47; G. Steindler Moscati, "Poesia israeliana: L'ironia ronantica di Natan Zach," in: Oriente Moderno, 3:1–6 (1984), 83–94; Y. Mazor, "Israeli Poetry – Between Bridled Sentiment and Exiled Sentimentality: The Case of N. Zach," in: Modern Judaism, 8:2 (1988), 157–65; H. Bar-Yosef, "Neo-Decadence in Israeli Poetry 1955–1965: The Case of N. Zach," in: Proof-texts, 10:1 (1990), 109–28; Y. Milman, Romantikah ve-Nikkur be-Shirat Zach (1995); idem, "The Poetics of Alienation in Nathan Zach's Poetry," in: Orbis Literarum, 50:1 (1995), 26–42; M. Haouari, "Intertextualidad en la poesia de N. Zach," in: Miscelánea de Estudios Árabes y Hebraicos, 48 (1999), 77–93.

[Anat Feinberg (2nd ed.)]