Sunday, April 22, 2007

Literary Connections between China and Israel

Haaretz has an interesting article on Dr. Zhiqing Zhong, the foremost scholar of Hebrew literature in China today. In her work Zhong draws connections between post-WWII Hebrew and Chinese literature. She examines how Israeli literature responded to the Holocaust and how Chinese literature responded to the Japanese occupation of China.
"Israeli authors of the 1950s were influenced by heroic concepts of the Holocaust," she says. "In response to memories of suffering and humiliation, they sought to glorify the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the partisans. They were influenced by the Zionist ideology of David Ben-Gurion and attempted to provide an example for Israeli youth by fostering a myth of rebellion and power. A good example of this is Aharon Megged's play, 'Hannah Senesh.' That literature also contained elements of negation of the Diaspora."

And what about Chinese literature of that period?

"China, following the establishment of the republic, was also influenced by heroic myths," she says. "Writers then tried to educate the young generation by means of heroes. Most of the heroes in books of that period were strong and they fought foreign invaders. That literature ignored the daily suffering of simple people." Zhiqing points to Li Yang-Ru's "City," "Old Spring Flower," and "Wild Fair," and Feng Deying's "The Bitter Flower," as examples of that genre.

The hero narrative plays a significant role in the act of nation-building. It's fascinating to think about in the context of the Massada story and how it is being dealt with in contemporary Israeli society.

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