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David Vogel

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David Vogel (1891 - 1944) was a Russian-born Hebrew poet and novelist.

Vogel was born in the small town Satanów in the Podolia region of Poland (now western Ukraine) to a Jewish orthodox family. He grew up in Vilna and Lvov and in 1912 moved to Vienna. When World War I broke he was arrested as an enemy alien but later released. In 1919 or 1920 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which he may have contracted from his first wife some time earlier. Living with the disease became the subject matter with some of his prose (most notably In the Sanatorium) and greatly enhanced the sense of impending doom in his poetry.

In 1923 Vogel published his first collection of poems, In Front of the Dark Gate, Which failed to make any impression within the Hebrew reading community. Shortly afterwards (1925), Vogel moved to Paris, but still travelled extensively, earning a meagre living giving lectures about the new Hebrew poetry.

In 1929, at the behest of his friends, Vogel visited Palestine with his second wife and his young daughter. Vogel initially considered moving to live there, but disliked the idea of having to hold to a steady job ("The need to work wears one's identity," he commented)[1] and the hot weather. He left for Berlin, and in 1933 re-settled in Paris. In those years Vogel also published the novel Married Life and the novella Facing the Sea, which also failed to leave a marked impression on readers. Vogel's style subject matter, where reminiscent of the Viennese Neo-Romantic writing (especially Arthur Schnitzler), but very much alien to the zeitgeist of much of the Hebrew language prose and poetry.

When World War II broke, Vogel was arrested again, ironically, as an alien citizen. After the occupation of France in 1940 Vogel, his wife and his daughter fled to the Vichy controlled area of France, and resided in Hauteville (now Hauteville-Lompnes), a small town in the Rhône-Alpes famous for its tuberculosis hospitals. There, possibly in early 1944, he was captured by the Nazis and deported to a concentration camp in Poland, where he died shortly afterwards.

Vogel was all but forgotten after his death. Renewed interest in his poetry was initially created in the 1950s by Nathan Zach, who hailed Vogel as the an antipode to the "Altermanian poetry in Hebrew. Several years later, in 1966, the poet Dan Pagis published a collection of Vogel's poems (The Full Collection of Poems), which catapulted Vogel's reputation and positioned him as one of the most eminent poets in the post-Bialik era in Hebrew poetry. Further editions and collections of his poems, as well as re-publishing of his novellas and novel contributed to the on-going and on-growing appreciation of his unique writing. [2]

Works

The main power and effectiveness of Vogel's poetry lies in its intense, condensed form, and puissant and somewhat mystifying imagery. His poetic palette is deliberately limited. His poems keep reverting to a simple set of colours (black, white, orange, yellow) and images (cupboard, night, silence, stillness, river, etc.).

The poems structure is similarly simple: 2-4 short free verse stanzas, with minimal poetic embellishments. This simple structure perfectly match the subject matter, which is almost invariably memories from a long gone and now lost past, a sense of impending death, desperation and a general sense of purposelessness.

Comments

  1. Cited in The Full Collection of Poems.
  2. Most of the biographical information is taken from the extensive forward notes to Vogel's collections of poetry, written by Dan Pagis and Aharon Komem. Lacking a definitive biography, those are still considered the best sources to his life and poetry.

Bibliography

In his lifetime

  • לפני השער האפל (In Front of the Dark Gate), Mahar publishing, 1923.
  • בבית המרפא (In the Sanatorium), novella, Mitzpeh publishing, 1927 (Tarmil, 1974).
  • נוכח הים (Facing the Sea), novella, 1932 (Siman Kriah, 1974)
  • חיי נישואים (Married Life) (novel), Mitzpeh, 1929-1930 (re-edited version: Hakibbutz Hameuchad-Siman Kriah-Keter, 1986)

Posthumously and collections

  • כל השירים (The Full Collection of Poems) Hakibbutz Hameuchad publishing, 1966 (revised editions, 1971, 1975, 1998).
  • לעבר הדממה (Towards Silence), Hakibbutz Hameuchad publishing, 1983.
  • תחנות כבות (collection of novellas and some of his diaries), Hakibbutz Hameuchad-Siman Kriah, 1990.

Further Reading