Lilach Netanel, a young scholar from Bar-Ilan University, could never have imagined that a routine visit to an archive would jolt her life and rock Hebrew literature. On a summer day two years ago, Netanel was at Genazim, the archive of the Hebrew Writers' Association in Tel Aviv. Her aim: to peruse the literary estate of the writer David Vogel (1891-1944 ), whose work was the subject of her doctoral dissertation. As she was mapping his writings, she came across a sheaf of papers covered with dense, cramped handwriting. She identified it as a draft of the novella "Facing the Sea," which was first published in 1934.
As later drafts of the text exist, there was no real reason to devote more time to this one. Nevertheless, Netanel, driven by some unknown inner force, went on riffling through the pages. She turned page after page, until her eyes lit on a pair of words that made her stop cold.
Among the familiar descriptions in the novella, she suddenly came across the words "street lamp." Instantly she knew that this was not the text of "Facing the Sea," which is set in a fishing village on the French Riviera and talks at most about paper lanterns. This text was set in a city. The lines that followed confirmed her learned hunch. There was a prostitute who crossed the pavement, and a policeman standing at a corner of the Ring Boulevard in Vienna. The archivist, who noticed Netanel's excitement, asked her what she had found. "Nothing, nothing," she replied. Netanel photocopied the manuscript and returned to Kibbutz Yakum, north of Herzliya, where she lives with her partner.
"I felt as though I had to get out of the city," she recalls, still moved by the event. "I sat into the night, trying to figure out, first of all, whether the text was a draft of one of the many short stories that Vogel started but didn't finish, or was something weightier. Then I noticed that the tattered edges of the pages were numbered. I started to organize the pages and discovered that there were 15 sequential sheets. I estimated that with his tiny handwriting, he had managed to squeeze 75,000 words onto the pages. This was obviously more than a novella. It was a novel."
And what a wonderful novel it is. Brave and bold in content, with erotic scenes and a sensational love triangle at its hub, it is written in Vogel's distinctive style, through which he probes his characters' souls and skillfully sculpts their physical attributes. There is Vogel's trademark investigation of the lineaments of passion and, as always, his fear of passion's institutionalization. The author's love of the city's frenetic pace shines through, along with the remnants of spirituality that are crushed amid the gears of the modern machine.
The novel's protagonist is Michael Rost, a young man with a lust for life who comes to Vienna and gets involved in a love affair with an older woman and her young daughter. Against the background of the love story, Rost wanders the streets of the city and frequents its cosmopolitan cafes. There he meets characters who constitute the fabric of the time, such as Fritz Anker, a scion of the dying aristocracy in fin de siecle Vienna. Vogel seems to have poured some of his own traits - which he abhorred - into Anker: mental scavenging, despondency, hesitation. Another character is Rost's patron, Peter Dinn, who has returned to Europe from America, where he made a fortune by dubious means.
Rost is also a regular at a Yiddish restaurant called Ahdut, in which Eastern European Jewish types take the stage. The waiters wear yarmulkes that are "flat, like black patches," while Reb Chaim Stock, Yasha from Odessa, Misha the anarchist and a host of others argue raucously and consume alcohol.
According to Netanel, this lost novel by Vogel, whose existence no one suspected, contains more than meets the eye. Lacking margins, the handwriting tiny and squeezed, the text, Netanel believes, is coded, so to speak, in order to conceal what it lays bare. "There is nothing else like this in the whole Vogel archive," she says. "There are densely written manuscripts, but they do not resemble this novel. It is absolutely unique."
Using a magnifying glass, Netanel deciphered the text almost letter by letter. In some cases she had to return to the archive and subject the manuscript to a high-resolution scanner. At this stage, she asked the writer Yuval Shimoni, an editor at Am Oved Publishing House, to work with her on editing the text and getting it published. Throughout, Netanel kept the discovery a secret. In fact, until the publication of this article, very few people knew about the new Vogel work.
"I did not want to meet with Yuval Shimoni in a public place. I wanted to meet in some dark corner of the university, or in a different city. I think he thought at first that I was off my rocker."
"The manuscript is still in Genazim, accessible to everyone," says Shimoni. "To ensure that rumors would not spread, we called Vogel 'the deceased' in all our internal emails, almost until the printing stage. Week after week, we reported the progress in the deceased's condition in the same way that people report the development of a fetus."
Shimoni and Netanel approached Yaron Sadan, until recently the CEO of Am Oved. He obtained the publication rights to the book from Genazim. At the beginning of February, readers of Hebrew will be able to find David Vogel's lost novel, "Viennese Romance," in bookstores.
Why did Vogel conceal the novel? Netanel believes the reason lies in the scandalous autobiographical affair around which the plot revolves: the 19-year-old Vogel's love for a married woman and for her 11-year-old daughter, Chanya. The affair is recounted in a diary Vogel kept from 1912 until 1922; it was published (in 1990 ) in "Extinguished Stations," a collection of novellas and diaries by Vogel, edited by Menakhem Perry.
The first three years covered by the diary are filled with Vogel's thoughts about this love triangle, which Perry calls a "Lolita story." Chanya's mother, who is not named in the diary (she appears only as the Hebrew letter tzadi ), was the first woman Vogel knew (in the biblical sense ). He describes the affair with the ardor reserved for primal experiences: "Like a young colt I would speed to her house ... whenever I had a moment to spare. I would always anticipate the moment when no one would be home and I would be able, at least, to make love and ply her with kisses. That was the situation at the time: I was in a kind of fever all the time, I was feverish with desire."
Later, Vogel writes about the breakdown of his relationship with the mother and the development of a more innocent love for the daughter, who reciprocates his love. "I would study a little and hunger a great deal and await Chanya's visit," he writes. "And Chanya would visit me and dispel the clouds of my bad mood somewhat. She would appear for a short time and disappear again, leaving behind her soul, her softness in the cold and restless room."
The triangle dissolved a year before the diary was written, when mother and daughter left for America to join the father of the family, who had immigrated ahead of them. In the first years of the diary Vogel was still corresponding with Chanya. She wrote him about the harassment and abuse she suffered at the hands of her jealous mother, and how much she missed him.
There is also another document which attests to this affair: an erotic poem describing clearly Vogel's love for mother and daughter. The first stanza: "Here's a mother, here a daughter / The two of them loving together / Desiring craving me like no other / Will I choose daughter or mother?" According to Netanel, Vogel hid the poem, too. Not only did he not sign it, he wrote it in the notebook of a friend, Avraham Landa. The poem was published posthumously.
In "Viennese Romance" Michael Rost, the protagonist, becomes romantically involved with Gertrud, a married woman who rents him a room in her home. Subsequently a love story develops between Rost and Erna, Gertrud's 16-year-old daughter. But in a cynical reversal - as Netanel terms it - whereas Vogel himself was poor and starving and cajoled money from friends at cafe doors, his alter ego Rost enjoys the funding of a wealthy patron. Vogel exempts Rost not only from the hardship of earning a living, which was his own lot, but also from the psychological hardships that bedeviled him.
"Vogel made Rost completely unreflective," Netanel says. "He cast him as a hedonistic type, which he himself wanted to be." As in "Married Life," Vogel's 1929 novel, the beginning of "Viennese Romance" also mentions an episode of suicide by jumping into a river. "The idea that sensual and expressionist elements infiltrate the metropolis - the model of liberalism, rationalism and the structuring of human society according to the working hours of clerks and laborers - is pervasive in many of the masterworks of Viennese and Austrian literature," Netanel notes. "Many of these works begin with a description of the city: the tram, the electric lines, the movement of people going to work and back home. There is also frequently an accident or a suicide, signifying a disturbance, a departure of the psyche from order and routine." Michael Rost, though, is not plagued by such mental torment.
The simplicity of the protagonist's personality, together with the autobiographical affair at the heart of the novel, are among the reasons that led Netanel to believe that Vogel started the book relatively early in his life. It is, she says, a secret youthful novel.
"One way to date the novel is by theme," she explains. "Rost's arrival in Vienna, which triggers the plot, in many places parallels entries in the first years of the diary. For example, Rost first finds lodgings with an old woman who has a canary in a cage. That is clearly the rewriting of a diary entry."
Netanel believes that years later, probably at the beginning of the 1930s, when Vogel was living in Paris, he reworked the text. "A second method of dating compares this novel with other Vogel texts, with 'Married Life' and with the first novella he published, in 1927, 'In the Sanatorium.' A comparison of scenes shows that stylistically, the central narrative, set in Vienna, is less mature. Accordingly, I think he wrote the first drafts in Vienna, but without the exposition or the ending, which take place in Paris, then put it aside and turned to another Vienna novel, 'Married Life.'"
Netanel found the manuscript of "Viennese Romance" attached to a draft of Vogel's 1932 novella "Facing the Sea," which appears to be written in the same format and with the same ink, and whose pages are equally aged. Her conclusion: this copy, which includes a Paris-based exposition and ending, is a later version - not the text, not yet fully formed, that was written years earlier in Vienna.
A third proof of the date is a letter Vogel wrote in 1932 to his editor, the writer Asher Barash. He informs Barash that he is about to finish a long story ("Facing the Sea" ) and, in addition, "I am working on a novel which is still in its infancy." The "infant" novel, Netanel thinks, is "Viennese Romance."
The issue of dating the novel will be addressed by literary researchers upon the book's publication. However, even now, some question Netanel's conclusions. The scholar and publisher Prof. Menakhem Perry, for one, believes that the novel was written much later: during the Second World War, after Vogel's release from French internment camps (in 1940 ). Perry's chief evidence is a piece of paper on one side of which is a list, in Yiddish, of the names of the characters from Vogel's Yiddish novel ("They All Went Out to Battle"), which was written during the war, while the other side bears a list of the characters that appear in the Vienna novel. In the past, the compilation of names of characters enabled Perry to prove that the Yiddish work is in fact a novel and not a diary, as had previously been thought. "That was also my proof for the fact that he wrote the novel in Hauteville, after his release," Perry adds. "Now the same proof also serves for 'Viennese Romance.' If he wrote the novel before the French jailed him, why would he plan the names on the same page? This is unequivocal proof that it was written afterward."
Prof. Michael Gluzman, from the Department of Literature at Tel Aviv University, concurs. Though he qualifies his comments because he has not yet read the book, he agrees that the book's autobiographical core does not necessarily mean that it was written at the time of those events. "The decisive issue will be stylistic," Gluzman says, though like Perry he finds it difficult to believe that Vogel wrote a novel in a period when he was primarily a poet. "One's feeling is that the young Vogel was deeply devoted to lyric poetry," he says.
According to Dr. Oded Menda-Levy, who is also from the literature department of Tel Aviv University, in 1925 - when Vogel wrote his never-published novella, "Tenant," which is considered his first work of fiction - his writing was still unformed. It is therefore very unlikely that he wrote a whole novel before 1925-1927. "And in the years afterward he was immersed in 'Married Life' and then in 'Facing the Sea.' Furthermore, he was not very prolific, and I don't know whether he was capable of writing two works simultaneously. He might have written 'Viennese Romance' in about 1937-1938."
Perry, Gluzman and Menda-Levy also question whether the novel was in some way concealed. "Vogel always wrote in a very cramped way," Perry says. "You need a magnifying glass to read the manuscripts. And over time, the writing becomes smaller and smaller. Only if he experienced some elevation of spirit does the writing become larger. Maybe he was economizing on paper."
In Netanel's view, the notion that Vogel was primarily a poet when he was young is the remnant of an early conception that viewed Vogel as a lyric poet who also wrote prose fiction. That view proved false, as increasing drafts of his prose works were discovered. Still, Netanel admits that neither side has enough evidence to decide the date issue definitively. She too believes that the final decision will be based on style analysis.
Why do you think Vogel did not publish the novel?
Netanel: "One possibility is that he not only shelved it, but also kept anyone from reading it, because he thought the content was problematic even from his point of view. A second possibility is that he intended to develop it later, which explains why he took so much trouble. Vogel was very shortsighted and he worked here with a precise nib. The paper is unlined but he wrote in straight lines. That is a tremendous amount of trouble to take if you don't plan to do anything with the product. I think he did want to publish the book - the fact is that he worked on the manuscript again in the 1930s. It's possible that he was defeated by what happened to him in the war. The events made it hard for him to write about the young hedonist Michael Rost in Vienna. Instead, he wrote his Yiddish novel, whose hero is an old and ailing Jewish artist who is looked after by his young daughter. The project got overturned."
Solving the mystery
David Vogel was born in the town of Satanov, Podolia, in the Russian Pale of Settlement on May 15, 1891. Like many, he moved west to the big cities. In 1909 or 1910 he arrived in Vilna as a yeshiva student, earned a living as a synagogue caretaker and worked to improve his Hebrew. It was in this period that he had the affair with the mother and her daughter. In 1912 he went to Vienna and lived a life of loitering and cafes. He learned German and barely eked out a living by giving Hebrew lessons. His diary, coupled with testimonies of people he met, suggest that he was introverted and reticent, a stranger to the practicalities of life, so he constantly suffered from want and hunger. In the superb introduction written by the poet Dan Pagis for Vogel's "Complete Poems" (published posthumously ), he quotes Hillel Bavli's description of the poet: "A young man of about 20, dressed in faded apparel, wearing a broad-brimmed black hat and with melancholy, wondering eyes. He was very withdrawn, a man of few words. His pale face always seemed drawn and tired."
Bavli, Pagis wrote, "offered him a partnership in a job copying letters and circulars of the Zionist Federation." Vogel accepted the job, but "after copying a few letters approached Bavli 'dejected and frightened' and asked to be released from the work, which he was incapable of doing."
Netanel: "I love him very much, because he was something of a total failure when it came to doing things. He never held a job, he abhorred economic life. When he was in Palestine he was offered a job teaching Hebrew at Gymnasia Herzliya, but he stammered a couple of words and said nothing. In 'Viennese Romance' it is plain to see that the arena in which Vogel functioned was night, not day. Most of the scenes start as the trams are carrying the army of clerks home after their day's work, and then the streets are clear for night cruising."
In 1914, the outbreak of World War I posed a problem for Vogel and other Jewish writers in Vienna. A Russian subject in Austria, Vogel was arrested as an enemy alien and spent time in internment camps. He returned from them, Netanel says, quoting the writer Gershon Shofman (1880-1972 ), with a higher forehead, thinner hair, pulsating temples and a look in his eyes of one who had seen an abyss. Toward the end of the war, Vogel's impressionistic poems (in Hebrew ) began to appear in periodicals, and in 1923 he published a poetry collection, "In Front of the Dark Gate."
Four years earlier, he had married Ilka, who was ill with tuberculosis; their marriage was as short as it was unhappy. In 1925, Vogel obtained an Austrian passport, but decided to leave Vienna and settle in Paris. During the 1920s and 1930s he wrote mainly prose, completed a second poetry collection (unpublished in his lifetime ) and married his second wife, Ada Nadler. In 1929, in honor of the publication of his first novel, "Married Life," the only one published in his lifetime, Vogel decided to immigrate to Palestine. But after only a year, he returned to Europe with Ada and their daughter Tamar, who was born in Palestine.
In 1932, after residing in Poland and Berlin, where Vogel tried, unsuccessfully, to translate "Married Life" into German, the family returned to Paris. When World War II broke out, Vogel and his daughter fled to the town of Hauteville, in southeastern France, where his wife was recuperating in a sanatorium for patients with lung ailments. He was interned by the French as an Austrian citizen and released after the Nazi occupation of France in 1940.
For years, Vogel's subsequent fate was unknown. "Beginning in 1944-1945, the Hebrew press in Palestine published reports about Vogel's disappearance," Netanel says. "Stories and rumors abounded. According to one very poetic account, he was caught and put aboard a train for a death camp, but at the last moment jumped from the train and then was shot in the back. Another story had it that he escaped from the Gestapo but at that very moment suffered a stroke and died. He was even supposedly given a funeral.
"At least one of the stories comes from a person named Moshe Ben Menachem," Netanel continues. "He was acquainted with Vogel in Paris and later reached Palestine. Where he got the information, no one knows. In the 1960s, Dan Pagis was working on Vogel's 'Complete Poems' and writing a biographical introduction. He sent the poet Moshe Hanaami to the United States to meet with Vogel's daughter, Tamar Vogel Mizrahi, who moved there after her mother died. She refuted the stories about the heart attack and the shooting, and at the same time sent to Genazim the archive - a box containing Vogel's Austrian passport, photographs and other items."
Pagis concluded the biographical section of the introduction with a quote from Vogel's Yiddish novel, which was then thought to be a diary. It ends with a description of the internees from the camps in southern France being transported by train. Pagis added: "It is not clear at this time where the internees were taken."
In 2001, the literary scholar Dan Laor undertook a comprehensive study to fill in what Pagis did not know. According to an article he subsequently published, Laor found that after Vogel was released from the internment camp, he returned to Hauteville and lived there until 1944, when he was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to a prison in Lyon. He was then transported to Drancy, a transit camp for French Jews bound for the death camps. The documents Laor found show that four days after arriving in Drancy, Vogel was transported to Auschwitz and murdered there.
The patina of mystery that shrouded the circumstances of Vogel's death continues to hover over his literary remains. The vicissitudes that befell Vogel's literary estate - although it is an extreme case - nevertheless represent the 20th century generation of authors, the last to physically write on paper.
"The writers of the 21st century will leave behind mainly a virtual archive," Netanel says. "There will be few literary remains in the old format of ink, yellowing paper and stains. The time metaphors related to literary writing are diminishing. Vogel's literary estate is an actualization of his wanderings and torments, because paper has to be carried with you. To hide it you have to bury it, and when you want to send it from one country to another, you have to use the mail. That involves a dimension of time and space."
What happened to Vogel's papers?
"The way in which Vogel's estate reached Genazim is an unsolved riddle, and anyone who might be able to shed light on it is now dead. The major part arrived after the Second World War, after all traces of Vogel had vanished."
Netanel believes that the conventional story about the arrival of the bulk of Vogel's estate is open to question. "As far as we know, Vogel fled from Paris to Hauteville and hid there for two years in a boarding house. At some point, he understood that the Gestapo was about to conduct a search. The story is that he buried his manuscripts in the courtyard of the boarding house. After the war, an old friend of his, a painter named Avraham Goldberg, arrived, dug up the manuscripts and gave them to Prof. Shimon Halkin, who was then teaching Hebrew literature in the United States. Halkin passed on the papers to Asher Barash, who in 1950 founded Genazim in order to preserve the works of Hebrew writers who perished in the Holocaust."
According to Netanel, there is a problem with this story. "Vogel was supposed to have fled from Paris in 1939 with his little daughter. We know that the trains going south from Paris were totally packed and that it was very difficult to move around. The information we have comes from Vogel's descriptions of a similar journey made by his alter ego in his Yiddish novel about the war. Vogel's writings constitute a large mass. Am I supposed to believe that in addition to his other belongings and his daughter he carted a box of his writings all the way to Hauteville? I find that untenable."
Netanel also points out that the condition of the "Viennese Romance" manuscript is not consistent with burial in the ground. Supposedly, the box lay buried during a summer and a winter in damp ground, saturated by rain. "Is it possible for sheets of paper like this to be so well preserved after being buried in the ground and then dug up?" she asks. On top of this, she notes, "He would have had to find a sealed box, or somehow to pad a box, and dig deep enough so that it would not be noticeable on the surface. Afterward, he would have had to inform Avraham Goldberg that he had buried the papers and exactly where they were. Goldberg was in Paris throughout this period, and as a Jew in the war he undoubtedly was in hiding. The whole story makes no sense. The only reason people believe it is that this was the testimony that passed from Goldberg to Halkin and from Halkin to Menakhem Perry and to Aharon Komem [who edited Vogel's poetry collection "Toward Silence," published in 1983]. In other words, it was hearsay evidence to all of them, and now there is no one left to ask. It's very puzzling."
The puzzle does not end there. "After the manuscripts reached Asher Barash, in 1949," Netanel relates, "for no clear reason he transferred only half of what he had to Genazim. The rest remained in his apartment in Tel Aviv." Barash died in 1952. At the end of the 1950s, Barash's family transferred a "lost" part of Vogel's estate to Genazim. Once more it was not complete. At the end of the 1970s, after Barash's widow died, Dov Ben-Yaakov, the director of Genazim at the time, set out to look for more literary remains in the couple's apartment. "According to the stories," Netanel says, "he searched and searched until he pressed on some divider in a wall, discovered that it was hollow, opened it and found another part of Vogel's estate. In this way the whole estate was finally put together and reached Genazim."
Since the 1950s, a work by Vogel has turned up every few years, Netanel says. "At the beginning of the 1980s, Aharon Komem found the second book of poetry, which Vogel had shelved and was thought to be lost. Menakhem Perry found another short story, 'Tenant,' which was published in the collection 'Extinguished Stations'; the Yiddish novel remains unpublished to this day and will probably never be published in Yiddish. Only Perry's translation has appeared, in Hebrew translation, in 1990."
Netanel thinks that the manuscript she found was included in the manuscripts that were transferred to Genazim at the end of the 1950s, after Barash's death. She bases her theory on the introduction written in 1959 by Avraham Broides - the secretary of the Hebrew Writers' Association - to Vogel's diary, which appeared in the periodical Moznayim. His account of the literary estate includes a draft of "Facing the Sea."
"Because the archive contains a final version of 'Facing the Sea,' by Vogel himself, I hypothesize that whoever perused these papers and found 'Facing the Sea' put them aside," Netanel says. As a result, the existence of "Viennese Romance" went unnoticed. However, Menakhem Perry, who is familiar with every detail of Vogel's file in Genazim, is certain that the lost manuscript was not attached to the draft of "Facing the Sea" at the time he went through the papers. "In the 1980s I held the draft of 'Facing the Sea' in my hand and I photocopied it, and it ['Viennese Romance'] was not there. It must have been in someone else's file, because I read everything that was in Genazim under 'Vogel.' Naturally, I am angry at this mess in Genazim."
Netanel maintains that the loss of the work until she found it is inseparable from what she calls its deliberate "concealment." "You have to think there is something there in order to find it," she says. "That is the nature of Vogel's concealment, and it worked for him."
Almost - until you arrived.
"I too was very lucky. If I hadn't seen those two words, 'street lamp,' on one of the pages I wouldn't have gone on."
In his work and life, "Vogel always belonged to the wrong camp," Prof. Gluzman says. "In Vienna he's arrested as a Russian subject, in France he's arrested as an Austrian subject and after being released he is arrested as a Jew. This posture of not belonging, of otherness, is a matter of principle with Vogel. It's not only the randomness of history - after all, when he was given the chance to become a citizen in Vienna after the First World War, he chose to move to Paris just then. It was the same in Palestine: he received a certificate [of immigration] but decided to leave. He was later blamed for wasting two certificates. There is something in Vogel that makes him want to go on being an outsider. It is a refusal to anchor the language in a particular territory, above all in the national territory in which it becomes the natural spoken language. That is a basic stance of Vogel's."
Although Vogel wrote in Hebrew, his work, in contrast to that of other Jewish writers in this period, was completely unrelated to the Zionist project and to the revival of Hebrew as part of the national renaissance. Why, then, did he write in Hebrew?
"To revive a language is a saliently modernist act," Gluzman says. "Ezra Pound came up with the phrase that became the motto of modernism: 'Make it new.' On the one hand, the thinkers of the time were repulsed by the past, and on the other hand they wanted to create something new, not be bound to history. Hebrew is alluring in these contexts, because it signifies the past, but not the immediate, contemptible history of Jewish existence in Eastern Europe; at the same time, because it is spearheading a movement of revival, it offers the opportunity to take a daring new step. I think that was what attracted Vogel."
Netanel: "The fact that Vogel did not write Hebrew out of ideology enables us at last to abandon the equation that the choice of Hebrew is a Zionist choice and the choice of Yiddish is a choice of a different order. A window of opportunity is opened here to see the choice of Hebrew as a poetic act."
And Vogel's Hebrew, which is free of national traces and liberated from the burden of the Jewish religion, is indeed unique. "I think Vogel guessed the direction that Hebrew would take," Gluzman says. "The central feature of Vogel's Hebrew is his almost complete avoidance of an incessant litany of allusions to the Jewish religious sources. The writers who revived Hebrew literature in the 19th century were yeshiva students who had lost their religion, but even afterward the traditional texts continued to resonate powerfully in works written in Hebrew. It's astonishing that Vogel wrote Hebrew in the Europe of 1920 as part of the process of the language's secularization and of its use as a universal language. And he did so completely divorced from the national contexts of the revival of Hebrew."
In addition, Vogel's protagonists almost always lack Jewish markers. Gluzman: "In 'Facing the Sea' there is only one remark that betrays the protagonists' Jewishness. Someone comments that a certain lipstick is too bright, and then one of the characters says, 'It's a shiksa's taste,' referring to a non-Jewish woman. That is the only word in the text that alludes to the characters' Jewishness. This is typical of Vogel."
Even during his stay in Palestine, Gluzman says, Vogel was not charmed by the experience of spoken Hebrew or its role in the realization of Zionism. "In the diary he complains that he came to get some sort of allowance and was told that only those who immigrate to the Land of Israel are entitled to it. He mocks this option, he prefers starvation. 'Ha, ha, to go to the Land of Israel to work the land,' he writes. '[That] does not suit my physical abilities or my desire ....'"
"Viennese Romance" reinforces Vogel's image as a Hebrew writer without an ideology. There is a paragraph in the manuscript that Vogel erased but is still perfectly legible. The context is the arrival in Vienna of the protagonist, Michael Rost, from the east. He is in a kosher Jewish restaurant packed with Eastern European migrants for whom Vienna was a stopover on the way to Palestine. In the deleted paragraph, Rost, too, is described as being on the way to "a barren land in the Near East." His bag contains only a collection of Russian and Jewish folksongs.
"This is the first time we see Vogel physically erasing the Zionist ideological content that is always attached to the use of Hebrew," Netanel says. "At some point, Vogel said to himself that he didn't want Rost within that context in his novel. That erasure shows me that Vogel is situating himself as a Hebrew writer in German modernist prose."
Breach of ethics
Vogel's poetry was published in Israel in the 1960s, but his fiction remained unknown in the country. The change in the public's perception of the author came about thanks to Prof. Menakhem Perry, whose literary journal, Siman Kriah, established a publishing house and put out "Facing the Sea." The discovery of the remainder of Vogel's literary estate in the apartment of Asher Barash after Barash's widow died brought Perry drafts of "Married Life." In 1986, he published a version of the novel that was a synthesis of the versions edited by Barash and Vogel's drafts. The book became a best-seller. The fact that Vogel is present as an important element in Hebrew literature today is one of Perry's important achievements. Netanel: "Perry did the most important work, thanks to which people like me read Vogel as a fiction writer and not only as a poet."
Perry's distinctive contribution and the fact that he has made the publication of Vogel's prose one of his most important goals raises the question of how he reacted to the discovery of "Viennese Romance" - and to the fact that it would not be published under his imprint. He emphasizes that the most significant and joyful aspect of the discovery is that Hebrew literature has been enriched with another Vogel work. In addition, "A mystery has been solved for me: what he did betwixt and between - between being released by the French and being handed over to the Germans. I saw a hole there."
He adds, "At the level of ego it makes me happy - and this article is an example - that excitement accompanies the discovery of a new work by Vogel. If Lilach Netanel had discovered the book and taken it to Am Oved 30 years ago, they would not have published it. From this point of view, I feel a sense of satisfaction. The other aspects are less important, but since you asked, I will take the opportunity to say them: I am angry at the mess in Genazim, because of which I made a mistake, and I think that what Lilach Netanel did borders on a breach of literary ethics."
What should she have done?
"She should have told me about her discovery. It is not done to put out a book by a writer who belonged to a particular publishing house via a different publisher, unless there is a dispute and the writer is unhappy. In the case of Vogel it goes far beyond this. There is a place that is Vogel's home, in the true and broad sense, a place that has cultivated him for 40 years. All of Vogel's poetry was published by Hakkibutz Hameuhad and all his prose by Hasifriya Hahadasha, which is constantly promoting him.
"It is not just a case of publishing and printing new editions. It involves putting out the books in a number of formats and each book a number of times, and also teaching the books, seeing to it that studies are written about them, and more. The fact that the book is being published by Am Oved will make it impossible, for example, to put out Vogel's complete works together. Vogel deserves to have a four-volume set of everything he wrote."
Are you also disturbed by editing issues?
"Yes. I don't know what Yuval [Shimoni] did in the editing. I know his great and multiple talents as an editor, but I also know his limitations. I know him as a writer - a field in which he is the complete opposite of Vogel - and certainly he does not have years of experience with Vogel. There is a mix here of personal feelings, but also a notion of what's good for Vogel. So I am ambivalent. But we have to keep it all in the right proportions. All this is insignificant in the face of the fact that a novel has been discovered. Above all it is a celebration for Hebrew literature."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now