by David Avidan
translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keller
Release Date: August 29, 2017
David Avidan was himself a Futureman, a self-described "Galactic Poet" and radical individualist known for his innovative use of Hebrew both on the page and in his performances and films. Recognized by the New York Times as one of the poets that "helped the biblical tongue evolve into a modern, living language," Avidan played in his work with lexical and syntactical innovations, neologisms, various registers of Hebrew throughout its history, and colloquial speech, which he believed deserved its place in poetry. Ever the innovator, in 1974 he even conducted a poetic dialogue with a computer. Futureman, in Tsipi Keller's virtuosic translation, introduces selections from across Avidan's groundbreaking oeuvre to English-language readers for the first time.
Scholar Anat Weisman, in her illuminating introduction "David Avidan: The Sadosemantic Poet," provides the literary, social, and cultural background to Avidan's work.
“The split of generations [in modern Hebrew literature] has found in this Israeli poet its most important representative” – poet Artur Lundkvist, Member of the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm
“The linguistic impact of his poetry is mainly responsible for the assimilation of modernism in Hebrew verse” – The Penguin Book of Socialist Verse (Editor’s Note)
“Avidan’s reputation in his native land is that of a controversial rebel who upset the entire literary establishment … But, like all rebels of great talent, he has made the establishment come to him” – The Jersey Journal, New Jersey
“He breathes an individualism which is the antithesis of Israel’s ‘collective’ culture” –
Jewish Observer & Middle East Review, London
“He is a man who creates controversy with his mountain of talent. He is a thinking man who forces us all to reflect beyond the realm of what present society considers to be the norm” – Debra Oppenheimer, Tarbut, New York
“With toughness worthy of a Spanish conquistador and an almost telepathic sensitivity that the Inca priests were said to possess, Avidan gave Hebrew poetry a long-overdue shock treatment” – Abraham Birman, Anthology of Modern Hebrew Poetry, Abelard-Schuman (Editor’s Introduction)
“There’s hardly an adjective that won’t fit some aspect of him” – Miriam Arad, Jerusalem Post
“David Avidan’s main quality is perhaps elusiveness. One cannot pin him down in a paragraph” – Message 67, Paris
“The reader will soon realize that he has before him the first masterpiece of Hebrew-into-English poetry translation” – poet Meir Wieseltier, Ba’Mahaneh, Tel Aviv
“The only Israeli poet with a grasp of the ‘younger’ American poets… More instinctive acumen than any European” – poet David Rosenberg, New York
“Avidan’s poetry functions at the center of all semantic innovations in contemporary Hebrew poetry” – Gabriel Moked,Yediot Ahronot, Tel Aviv
“Avidan’s writing has stimulated the blood and respiratory system of Hebrew poetry” –
David Weinfeld, IBA Radio, Channel 1
“Such a magnificent intellectual machine … This is the kind of poetics which I’m ready to back without any reservation. Simultaneously, it offers a dialectical formula of education” – Aharon Shabtai, Davar, Tel Aviv
“An exciting contribution to the demystification of the poetic praxis” – Prof. Itamar Even Zohar, Editor of Ha’Sifrut, Tel Aviv University
“Avidan’s poems manifest a mastery of poetic language – on the theoretical as well as the practical level – way and above of all international models” – Claude Gallimard, editor-in-chief & publisher of Gallimard, Paris
“The translation of the ‘Cryptograms’ is an interesting, brilliant example of the Avidanian model: multi-dimensional space, in which both original and translated texts are constantly interchanging and interchanged, inter-acquainted and gravitated in the same energetic system” – Bulletin international des critiques litteraires, Paris
“Great … Powerful … Very important” – Andrey Voznessensky, International Poetry Festival, 1978, Paris
“Probably one of Israel’s greatest poets today … A modernist writing in computer-like complexities … His protest against petit-bourgeois indifference, against society’s mental sclerosis, is no pretense … A struggle against being doomed to loneliness” – Victor Tsoppi, Literaturnaya Gazeta, Moscow
Poet, translator, painter, filmmaker, playwright, and publisher David Avidan (1934-1995) was born in Tel Aviv, where he lived and worked. A major force in contemporary Hebrew poetry and a leading innovator and artist, Avidan published nineteen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books. His work has been translated into twenty languages, and collections of his poems have been published in Arabic, French, and Russian. He wrote and directed four short films, including “Sex,” which was shown at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1971. He translated plays by Chekhov, Brecht, and Friedrich Schiller, as well as Hamlet, and the play adaptation of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish. His Collected Poems, in four volumes, was published by Hakibbutz Hameuchad, Bialik Institute in 2009-2011. Among his awards, he won the Abraham Woursell Award from the University of Vienna, the Bialik Award, and the Prime Minister Award.
Tsipi Keller was born in Prague, raised in Israel, studied in Paris, and now lives in the U.S. Novelist and translator and the author of ten books, she is the recipient of several literary awards, including National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowships, New York Foundation for the Arts Fiction grants, and an Armand G. Erpf Translation Award from Columbia University. Her translations have appeared in literary journals and anthologies in the U.S. and Europe, as well as in The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization (Yale University Press, 2012). Her Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry (SUNY Press, 2008) has received many accolades, and deemed: "Not since Carmi's 1981 Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse has a volume of such significance been published" (The Forward). Her most recent translation collections are Raquel Chalfi's Reality Crumbs (SUNY Press, 2015) and Erez Bitton's You Who Cross My Path (BOA Editions, 2015).
Cover art by Jaya Nicely