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Self as Nation
Contemporary Hebrew Autobiography
Tamar S. Hess

The Schusterman Series in Israel Studies

2016 • 228 pp. 6 x 9"
Jewish Literary Criticism / Literary Criticism - Religion / Literary Criticism - Historical Events

$40.00 Paperback, 978-1-61168-880-1
$85.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-879-5

$34.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-966-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Hardcover is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)

“Hess argues that Israeli autobiographies create a national image that is ultimately pluralistic and positive. Making a compelling argument for the importance of literary autobiographies for understanding Israeli culture and... [continued in Reviews below]”—Choice

Reveals the intimate ties between selfhood and nationality, life story and national narrative, through Hebrew autobiography

Theorists of autobiography tend to emphasize the centrality of the individual against the community. By contrast, in her reading of Hebrew autobiography, Tamar Hess identifies the textual presence and function of the collective and its interplay with the Israeli self. What characterizes the ten writers she examines is the idea of a national self, an individual whose life story takes on meaning from his or her relation to the collective history and ethos of the nation. Her second and related argument is that this self—individually and collectively—must be understood in the context of waves of immigration to Israel’s shores. Hess convincingly shows that autobiography is a transnational genre deeply influenced by the nation’s literary as well as cultural history.

This book makes an additional contribution to the history of autobiography and contemporary autobiography theory by analyzing the strategies of fragmentation that many of the writers Hess studies have adopted as ways of dealing with the conflicts between the self and the nation, between who they feel they are and what they are expected to be. Hess contrasts the predominantly masculine tradition of Hebrew autobiography with writings by women, and offers a fresh understanding of the Israeli soul and the Hebrew literary canon.

A systematic review of contemporary Hebrew autobiography, this study raises fundamental questions essential to the debates about identity at the heart of Israeli culture today. It will interest scholars and students of contemporary Israeli culture, as well as those intrigued by the literary genre of autobiography.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Hess argues that Israeli autobiographies create a national image that is ultimately pluralistic and positive. Making a compelling argument for the importance of literary autobiographies for understanding Israeli culture and self-image, this book will be useful for readers familiar or becoming familiar with this literature. . . . Recommended.”

“Tamar Hess aims to show how contemporary Israeli-Jewish autobiographies reflect the writers’ personal and Jewish-Israeli heritage. The various autobiographies explore personal family conflicts, memories of lost friends who have died in the Israeli wars, as well as the authors’ viewpoint on contemporary issues like feminism and universal equality. The book delivers an optimistic message for Israeli society.”
Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

“Situating her highly articulate and incontestably scholarly study within the fields of autobiographical theory and the study of the Hebrew canon, Hess offers a fresh and insightful analysis of recent Hebrew autobiographies and convincingly argues that this genre is instrumental in shaping the concept of the Israeli nation-state.”
Journal of Jewish Studies

“Here lies perhaps the main lesson to take away from this book: Israeli autobiographies are enlightening not because they adapt the private to the public, the individual to the collective, and the self to the nation but because the people presenting themselves in all their concerns, fears, and weaknesses are the real building blocks of Israeli society.”
Biography: An Interdisciplinary Journal

“[Hess’s] meticulous reading of the texts and her ability to show the particularities of each one while also providing commentary about Israeli literature, culture, and society are the real strengths of her study.”
Israel Studies

“In this finely crafted, upbeat study of Hebrew autobiography, Tamar Hess probes intergenerational family dynamics to draw a complex and richly nuanced portrait of Israeli national identity experience.”—Paul John Eakin, author of Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative

Self as Nation is a brilliant and original analysis of the surprising transformations of the classical genre of autobiography in Israel. Hess takes the reader through a penetrating reading of the texts while providing a revolutionary perspective on the evolution of the Israeli ‘self.’ The book offers a unique insight—rare in its optimism—into how autobiography takes its place within the nation’s story.”—Nili Scharf Gold, author of Yehuda Amichai: The Making of Israel’s National Poet

“Hess’s penetrating study of autobiography illuminates with extraordinary precision the debates about identity at the heart of Israeli culture today. The beautifully written pages of Self as Nation lay bare the inevitably imbricated relations between selfhood and nationality, memory and history, inheritance and community. Self as Nation marks a major contribution both to the field of autobiography studies and to the tradition of Hebrew literature.”—Nancy K. Miller, author of What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past


Runner-up for the Shapiro Prize

TAMAR HESS is Sidney and Betty Sarah Berg Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Language in the Department of Hebrew Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:28 -0500