Before Dying at Auschwitz, He Led a Tortured Life. Long-lost Letters Also Reveal a Great Love Story

A tormented love, a long battle with TB, a decision to leave Palestine, a tragic end. Some 200 letters shed light on the life of author David Vogel and the literary prowess of his wife, Ada

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
David and Ada Vogel with their daughter Tamara in Palestine, circa 1930.
David and Ada Vogel with their daughter Tamara in Palestine, circa 1930. Credit: Courtesy of the family
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

“Despite everything, we love each other very, very much, both of us, isn’t that so, Eidshel? And it’s very good that we are so much in love and that we have everything together and can do everything together, down to the last thing.” These moving words were written by David Vogel, one of the great Hebrew-language poets and novelists, to Ada, his beloved wife and the mother of their daughter, about a year before the outbreak of World War II, which separated them for all time.

“Between us, after all, the last barriers have fallen and we are planted deep within one another, to the end – isn’t it wonderful, all this?! For, one way or the other, we are only poor people, but when we hold each other tightly, things are, nevertheless, a little different,” wrote the Ukrainian-born Vogel.

The romantic fervor that emanates from his letter, composed six years before Vogel was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, in 1944, reflects an attempt to compensate for a life filled with anguish, despair, poverty, loneliness, disease and restless wanderings. It was discovered about 10 years ago, along with 222 other missives and postcards that Vogel and the woman who would become his wife exchanged over the course of 15 years.

The Vogels’ daughter, Tamara, collected them from the home of her mother, Ada, who died, brokenhearted, in France after the Holocaust. Tamara stuffed them into a trunk and took them along when she sailed from France to America – and not to Palestine, where her parents hoped she would make her home. The letters waited for decades until they were deposited, before Tamara’s death some years ago, in the faithful hands of Israeli literary scholar Dan Laor.

“It’s a bit of miracle,” says Laor, emeritus professor of Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University. “Apparently these letters and postcards were in her home for decades, just lying there without anyone wanting them.”

The “love affair in letters” between David and Ada has now been published in book form, “Ahava Ad Kalot” (“Endless Love”; Dvir Publishing), edited by Laor and his former student Dr. Rachel Stepak. A host of experts took part in deciphering, translating and annotating the manuscript. In the book’s 400 pages – which include the letters, an essay and background information – the reader experiences moments of transcendent happiness, brought on by falling in love and being in love, alongside disappointment, poverty, illness and sad farewells.

Laor saw the letters for the first time when he met Tamara Mizrahi-Vogel, while conducting comprehensive research during the last 10 years on her father’s work.

“At best, I hoped she would allow me to photocopy them,” he says now, adding that instead, he came out with his hands full. “I was surprised that she gave me the letters. I think it was a load off her mind, because she didn’t know what do with them. Sometimes there are things that weigh on us, and the act of giving is also an act of parting, accompanied by a feeling of relief,” Laor explains.

The letters, all handwritten, are mainly in German, with a few in French; the professor also received a diary kept by Ada. As Laor perused the collection and began to study it, along with Stepak, he discovered what he describes as “a marvelous love story, labyrinthine and beset by torment.” It is a story that helps illuminate the tempestuous, exceptional and at times completely incomprehensible life of Vogel, author of the Hebrew novel “Married Life,” published originally in 1929-30 and in English translation in 2013.

The saga that ended in 1944 with Vogel’s murder, began in 1925 when he and Ada Nadler first met in Merano, a resort town in the Italian Alps, at the Refuge for Indigent Jews sanatorium; both of them suffered from tuberculosis. This was not the most romantic of settings for the start of a healthy relationship. Moreover, Vogel was married at the time, and Ada was engaged. Both sought a cure for their disease – and also, apparently, for relationships in which love had not blossomed.

At age 25, Nadler, who was born in Poland and later moved to Hamburg, was nine years younger than Vogel. The affair that began in Merano continued in an exchange of letters after Vogel left the sanatorium, alone. He went first to Vienna, then on a month-long journey to Poland, to write and gather inspiration. The two wrote to each other frequently, with the question of when they would meet again, and where, pervading the correspondence.

“Today is exactly eight days since I left Merano,” Vogel wrote Nadler on March 22, 1925. “At this time on Sunday, eight days ago, I was sitting somewhere on a very brightly lit verandah, in the company of the so close and yet so far Ada Nadler, she with eyes from which a gentle soul radiates. That is all very distant now. But it is most encouraging to know that those two eyes are sometimes clouded with sadness because of me. Because life is very difficult… certainly there is so much beauty in the world. But fate has doomed me always to see around me the blackest misery in it – a fate that cannot be reversed… I have not yet despaired of the hope of seeing you again, dear Ada. After all, we still have some things to say to each other.”

Dangerous liaisons

Fate was indeed cruel to Vogel, who had a difficult childhood, contracted TB, and was shunted between Austrian, French and Nazi detention camps, ultimately perishing in a death camp. He was born in 1891 to a poor family in the town of Satanov, Ukraine, which he described as dreary and from which he sought “to extricate himself.” His father died when he was a child; he was raised by his widowed mother.

In his teens, Vogel moved to Vilna (today, Vilnius), where he studied briefly in a yeshiva. There, too, poverty hounded him; he walked about in ragged shoes and was constantly hungry, as he later recounts in some of his writings. Despite the harsh conditions, in Vilna he experienced not only a sort of liberation from religion but also “self-liberation” – losing his virginity at the age of 19 in a forbidden relationship with an older, married woman. At the same time, he had a relationship with her 14-year-old daughter that can be termed, at the least, romantic, but which some literary scholars have described as stomach-churning and a kind of “Lolita” story.

David Vogel.Credit: Courtesy of the family

References to the double affair pervade Vogel’s work. “Here’s a mother, here a daughter / The two of them loving as one / Desiring craving me like no other… That love has not yet been extinguished / And this one has yet to blaze,” he wrote. Elsewhere, he confessed, “I have done an exchange, and the friendship with the daughter is already more durable than that with the mother.”

Furthermore, as Vogel was quoted in a film that was part of Israeli producer Yair Qedar’s documentary series “The Hebrews”: “I was already in a relationship of intercourse, we pined and longed for each other, I like a young colt would rush to her house at every free moment. I was a young man tasting sin for the first time, and I always looked forward to the moment when no one would be home, when I would be able, at least, to make love and kiss her.”

But restlessness continued to plague him. In 1912, he decided to leave Russia and he found himself in Vienna, which he envisioned as a large, vibrant metropolis. But there, too, he wrote later, he was acutely lonely, restive, bored and half-crazed. And there, too, the vicissitudes of history made his already-fraught life unbearable: As a foreign national, a Russian citizen on Austrian soil, he was incarcerated during World War I, experience that traumatized him.

In Vienna he met his first wife, Helena Levy (nicknamed Ilka); their marriage did not last, in part because Ilka also suffered from TB and was frequently hospitalized or bedridden. Not long after they wed, in 1919, Vogel wrote in his diary, “Ilka did not get better and she is moving about among sanatoria, and her heart has grown cold to me. In the way of nature. Or not in the way of nature. It has been voided of the pain that dwells in love, and perhaps of the whole of love… But as long as I have breath within me – passion for a woman exists. For many women.” The two separated in 1925, but remained legally married. That same year, Vogel met Nadler in the Italian sanatorium.

The foregoing chronicle constitutes the historical and personal background to the start of the Vogel-Nadler love affair in letters. Vogel as he emerges from these letters – like the Vogel of his diary, poetry and prose fiction – is a stranger in the world, homeless and restless. Unable to remain in any one place for too long, he wanders between cities and countries, lonely, suffering, weighed down by a sense of alienation, completely lacking any life skills. His passivity, idleness, wretchedness, agonizing and social alienation cry out from the letters, which are also permeated by the sheer bad luck that dogged him all his life.

‘Two bleeding halves’

On March 17, 1925, Ada wrote: “Dear Mr. Vogel, If only you knew how happy I was to get your regards. Here in Merano I feel that everything is empty. I miss you very much… You know, I feel hopeful that you will soon come to Merano again – but maybe that is only the reflection of a wish?... You left good friends here. What’s going on in Vienna? There you will certainly forget us quickly in the hustle and bustle of the little and big things. And if you can, try to remember us for a time. Since you left, I have become somewhat sentimental – I would like to tell you something else affectionate, but I feel a bit shy around you.”

Fate was cruel to Vogel, who had a hard childhood, contracted TB, and was shunted between detention camps, ultimately perishing at Auschwitz.

On May 9, she added: “David – I’ve been wanting to write you for a few days – I think of you constantly – but I cannot. I am somehow torn and nervous… I long so much to see you again, David – but I am afraid it will not work… Suffering is said to refine the soul. David, don’t you think that is also possible with a little joy? Just a bit of heartwarming joy. How greatly I long for that! To you I can say this. The others demand that I be unreservedly happy. But within me I feel only longings. Inner longings… If I were to go on writing, I would say too much, betray what I am harboring in my innermost self. It’s nighttime now, silence around me. I can listen to myself without interruption. Sleep is out of the question. I am still very much awake. God, what will I do with myself? Does that ring a bell with you? The absence of something to hold on to? When you don’t know which way to turn? It’s terrible, terrible.”

Subsequently, Nadler also left the sanatorium and found a job at a boarding house in St. Moritz. At the time, Vogel was in Vienna. Their mutual desire intensified through the letters. Only then did Nadler reveal to Vogel that she was engaged to a man in Hamburg, who had been her partner for the previous eight years. Vogel, for his part, never mentioned in his correspondence that he was married.

Occasionally he appended to the letters poems he had written. On June 30, Nadler responded to one of them. “I read and re-read your letter – a few times every evening – I let your words resonate within me… I recited the poem deep into the night – at first I overcame the technical difficulties, and afterward I plunged deep into its soul, your soul – I felt that latent in these words are unexplored abysses – abiding beauty.”

At the end of the summer, after much soul-searching, the two decided to meet in Vienna, which Nadler was visiting. After she returned to Hamburg she revealed the secret of her feelings for Vogel to her fiancé and continued to feel torn between them. Vogel was now getting ready for the next chapter in his life: a move to Paris.

On September 14, Ada wrote: “For the present I am only a concentrated lump of chaos. Your letter, David… I found in those few lines a homeland, light, happiness, security. I absorbed every word deep into myself… Think of me fervently, so I will be able to feel you.”

Vogel moved into a cheap hotel in Montparnasse, drawn by the cafés and bohemian lifestyle, but soon grasped that most of the numerous writers and artists residing in the city were, like him, doomed to a life of poverty and want. Meanwhile, Nadler, still in Hamburg, wrote him that her engagement was off and that she wanted to meet him in Paris. Vogel had expected this, but also confronted her with the stark realities: Where would she find work? How would she support herself? How would she get along in the city without knowing the language? Nadler, who wanted to break into the film industry, decided to take the risk.

On October 17, she wrote him about how excited she was at the prospect of the trip. “When I get to Paris we will take our two hearts and send them on a walk – so that first of all we can be joyful and happy. Am I pretty enough for the city of ‘beautiful women’? I too like to look at women like that – together with you I will send them gazes of admiration and critique, without envy… I am looking forward happily to all the new things – to all the new and unfamiliar faces. The two of us will sit in a café and look at them – and laugh a lot. And occasionally you are also allowed to look at me.”

However, only a week after her arrival in Paris, Ada returned to Hamburg. One of the reasons for her abrupt departure, Laor believes, is that she learned then that Vogel was married.

Some of the letters exchanged between Vogel and Nadler.Credit: Meged Gozani

Nadler subsequently went to Berlin, with Vogel’s encouragement, in the hope of finding work as a movie actress. But she didn’t succeed, and instead of being hired by a film studio she found herself doing occasional clerical work. Afterward, in a spontaneous decision, the two met again in the Italian resort town where they had first encountered each other.

“I tore myself into two bleeding halves. Somewhere inside me there is endless crying… Nowhere will I be able to feel freedom and security the way I do with you,” she wrote him on November 5, adding in another letter eight days later: “At times I stand in front of the mirror and make myself pretty. For you, only for you, even though you are far away. No one can notice the small, delicate details like you. Certainly, it is also possible to live without all this, but it enriches life so much. For two people there are many small wellsprings for happiness and joy. If they know how to draw from them.”

On February 1, 1926, Vogel sent Nadler words of encouragement. “We will manage, despite everything. We must succeed. Isn’t that so? Of course, on condition that you don’t fall in love with anyone in the near future. That would be something untimely, from my viewpoint, even quite inconvenient. And I say to you: I don’t like this fellow whom you might fall in love with, already now I don’t like him, even if I don’t know him… We will have our way yet!!! We will disappear within each other!!!”

“It happens that you are putting on a sock – a simple task, as it were – and suddenly you are flooded with longings and terrible pain, so much so that you pass out and lose your mind. And you are completely alone and helpless,” Nadler wrote to Vogel on May 7. His reply, two days later: “I received your letter, from which I can again draw nourishment for a short time. There is no more happiness in my heart, and no more jubilation. The gray, warped loneliness once more dwells within me. With all its appendages… My frame of mind is at a low point.”

Vogel afterward went back to Paris and Nadler to Hamburg, where she returned to her fiancé – she never mentioned his name even once in her letters – and contemplated marrying him – not from love but precisely in the hope that the marriage itself might, paradoxically, steer her relationship with Vogel to the end she desired.

“This marriage is a tax that I must somehow pay. Only then will it all come to its end,” she wrote Vogel. “How difficult, what a tortuous road, but that is the situation. Maybe you will understand it. And maybe it will not be like that, and I am only deluding myself. In any case, no one ever entered into the marriage covenant with this degree of faithlessness, filled completely with another person. But maybe it won’t come to that.”

Vogel and Nadler’s love for each other gave them no respite and in September 1926, Nadler set out for Paris again – this time for good. For the next few years, the City of Lights was their common home. The miserable fiancé, whom Nadler loved “like a sister” and with whom she experienced “great alienation” and “severe torture,” was never mentioned again in the letters.

Shame in Palestine

Vogel decided he wanted to be an innovative writer in modern Hebrew, despite the fact that Hebrew was not his mother tongue and he grew up in an environment foreign to the language. In 1929, he took a major step toward that goal by moving to Palestine with Nadler. Amid the vibrant hub of Hebrew literature that had sprung up in Tel Aviv at the time, Hebrew was, uniquely in the world, a living, everyday language. Vogel hoped to pursue his path further in the “first Hebrew city.”

Almost immediately upon arriving in Tel Aviv he married Nadler in the rabbinate, the two of them concealing the fact that Vogel was still married. Ada was in the second month of pregnancy; Tamara was born at the end of the year. It wasn’t until 1933 that Vogel formally divorced Ilka. Until then, Laor notes, he “lived as a bigamist for more than four years.”

About a week before the marriage, Vogel signed a contract for the publication of the novel, “Married Life,” that he’d written in Paris a few years earlier. “It’s one of the most impressive books in 20th-century Hebrew literature, dealing with family life, relationships, marriage and relations between men and women,” Laor says.

“Married Life” is an exciting, erotic, fiery work, whose protagonist, a young Jewish intellectual from Vienna who is embarking on a career as a writer, murders his beautiful and cruel Austrian wife in the presence of a mutual acquaintance – a woman with whom he has made love. The murder is the climax of a relationship that has become a “prolonged nightmare,” as Laor puts it.

“It’s impossible not to see an autobiographical seed from which the story grew,” he adds, referring to Vogel’s first marriage. He was powerfully attracted to Ilka, but it seems that Vogel understood that they were incompatible, which led to tension between them and made him want “to inflict torments on her,” as he admits in his diary: “I am compelled to take revenge. I hate her to death. At such moments I was liable to hit her. Also to kill her. My nerves are wrought up. I would like her to love me but without robbing me of my rest. For her to place her soul in my hands and not demand any reward.”

The publication of the book (an English translation of which, by Dalya Bilu, appeared in 2013) led members of the Yishuv, the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine, to notice and acknowledge Vogel. However, Laor says, “it did not cause a sensation and did not become the conversation piece among the circles of readers and the intelligentsia” that its author had hoped for.

It is perhaps the muted and even skeptical response to his great prose that deflated him and was behind his decision to leave the country, but there were other reasons for the brevity of his residence in Palestine. “Vogel was restive,” the professor writes in an essay in the book, “and the climate in Palestine also made him uncomfortable. The rioting by the Arab community in the summer of 1929 terrified large sections of the Yishuv. As always, it was difficult to make a living.”

David Vogel and Ada Nadler.

Thus, 11 months after they arrived, Vogel left Tel Aviv with Nadler, “angry, embittered, disappointed, after the dream of Palestine, which he had long harbored in his heart, was instantly shattered before his eyes.” His wife packed their few belongings in “subdued quiet,” Laor notes, “and in hushed tones took her leave of the few friends they had made during the months of their stay.” Palestine had thus became one more way station in the couple’s journey of tormented wandering.

The next stop was Berlin, where Vogel hoped to persuade a publisher to bring out a German translation of “Married Life.” But again failure loomed. The book did not arouse any interest, and was not translated. “Gradually he realized that ‘Married Life’ was for the time being destined to exist in a language of the past, for a reading public that was incapable of valuing the book properly and without any chance of reaching a different reading public… who might offer it a far more sympathetic reception,” Laor writes.

Toward the end of 1931, the family returned to Paris for what would turn out to be their best years, according to Laor. Vogel was unemployed once again; his income from royalties was meager, but at least they were together. He began to work on a book of poetry, and sent his work to newspapers and journals in the Yishuv. In 1932, he completed his novella “Facing the Sea,” which was published in Palestine a year later (it was published in English translation, by Daniel Silverstone, in 2014).

Laor: “The enchanting landscape depictions, the lyrical language and the sophisticated description of the tangled relations between the characters leads the reader into realms of emotion and experience probably unparalleled in Hebrew literature until then.”

However, this success was clouded by a renewed outbreak of Ada’s tuberculosis, which in 1936 forced her to be hospitalized, leaving Vogel to look after their young daughter. The separation sparked a renewed exchange of letters, centering mainly around her illness and his dire economic straits.

“But love conquers all,” Laor reminds us. “The love between Ada and David Vogel, which flared up in Merano in the winter of 1925 and rescued Vogel from the affront and impasse of his failed first marriage, continued to burn with an eternal flame across the years – both in the good years, when they were fortunate to be together, in Paris and in Tel Aviv, and in the bad years, those of parting, distance and disease.”

Along with the underlying currents of faithfulness, mutual responsibility, concern and compassion, he adds, “there were rare moments in which the letters metamorphosed… into the medium of a throbbing personal confession that expressed with full force the desire and the mutual yearning and the love that abided between them. Love to the end of time.”

On July 28, 1937, Vogel wrote Ada: “When I think of you, my love, my heart skips a beat because of my great longing. After all, we have already merged with one another so intensely, the two of us and our daughter. And I so much adore your beautiful, noble personality, to the end. If I had to choose a wife now, I would choose you again, always only you. Do you see? I don’t think it’s possible to love a woman more than I love you. That certainly should boost you in moments of diminished spirits. When I think of your beautiful, fragrant body, which I love endlessly, I simply cannot bear the pain of your not being close to me, of not being able to kiss you everywhere and to caress you… Even so, maybe no one loved you so much.”

Brink of madness

When World War II broke out and France entered the conflict against Germany, Ada was recuperating in a sanatorium in Hauteville, in southeastern France. Vogel fled Paris with Tamara to join her there. But on October 3, 1939, he was arrested. As a former Austrian citizen, he was perceived by the French to be part of a fifth column and was incarcerated in a detention camp for nine months. Throughout that ordeal, the correspondence with Ada, who was still in the sanatorium, continued. “You ask me to tell you what’s new here, but you write nothing about yourself and don’t answer my questions. All this worry is making my life very difficult,” Ada wrote him.

Upon his release – in the wake of France’s occupation by Germany – the family was reunited for several years. Vogel survived most of the war with his daughter in Hauteville, which was located in the Free Zone, while Ada remained confined to the sanatorium there (no information exists about how Tamara survived the war). But bad luck continued to dog him. In February 1944, the Gestapo in Lyon conducted a military operation to round up members of the Resistance in the area and arrested Jews, among them Vogel, as well. Laor: “From this point it was a chronicle of death foretold.”

On March 10, 1944, Vogel was murdered in a gas chamber in Auschwitz. He was 53. Five months later, in August, the German army was driven out of France, Paris was liberated and the transport of Jews to the death camps was halted.

Meanwhile, Ada was despondent, not knowing what happened to her husband. “The sudden disappearance of her beloved drove her mad,” Laor says.

Her diary entry for August 7, 1944: “It has been six months already since D. was arrested… six months in which I have been alone, alternating between despair and hope. I am struggling like an animal caught in a trap. My mind is outraged. By what right did they tear him from me? Overnight I found myself solitary, blinded by the sudden blow that struck me. The ground is being pulled away from under me. I no longer have a reality.”

Later she added, “I understood that one can suffer only up to a certain point, and when it is reached nothing can hurt or be painful. Everyone has only the level of suffering he is capable of enduring. I think I have reached that extreme. I know that if I don’t succeed in pulling myself up now – and doing it completely alone, with the strength of my inner resources only – I will cross the boundary of suffering beyond which madness lies in wait for me.”

Prof. Dan Laor.Credit: Meged Gozani

The Association of Writers in the Yishuv tried to help her and Tamara. “She is in a fatal state, both materially and spiritually. She has no hope of the return of her husband and she and her 16-year-old daughter are living in conditions of atrocious poverty,” the poet Anda Amir-Pinkerfeld informed her colleagues in early January 1946. By the end of that month, she notified them of Ada’s death.

Compelling presence

Romantic correspondence between famous pairs of lovers – it’s desirable for at least one of them to be a writer or poet – are much in demand in the literary marketplace. Kafka’s letters to Milena and the correspondence between Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, published as books after the death of their authors and without their permission, are prime examples of an invasive glimpse into the most intimate corners in the lives of famous artists.

To my question as to whether he felt any sort of ethical dilemma in publishing such personal, intimate documents, Laor replies that he did. “True, it’s private, it’s personal, and it’s a reasonable assumption that Vogel didn’t even thinking of publishing the letters, still less Ada,” the scholar admits, but adds, “Since Vogel has become a figure who is so compellingly present, challenging, intriguing and enigmatic [and because], relatively speaking, his literary legacy is small” – there was a “necessity and desire ... to reveal everything that can be revealed.”

He clarifies further: “If the letters were only intimate and revealing, or written at a limited level of expression, their publication would not be justified. But his writing ability – and, to my surprise, also of Ada, who turns out to be a literary talent – provide the justification for taking this step.” He adds, “Even if, in the final analysis, we do an injustice to Vogel by revealing certain things, more than that we do him justice, because we are showing him, discovering him. The world of Vogel, as we knew it until today, has become much fuller, richer and more detailed.”

Laor finds two contrary yet mutually complementary aspects in the couple’s letters. “There’s a Job-like story of torment here on the one hand, which contains considerable suffering. But there is also testimony to the tremendous power of love, hope and surpassing inner resilience that precludes compromise or surrender. There is love that exists despite all the adverse conditions, and the aspiration and sincere will to create meaning that transcends the suffering. That meaning is the bond, the faithfulness and the love.”

The publication of a love affair in letters in this day and age is not self-evident. “This book reveals [a collection of] letters in an era in which that channel of communication no longer exists,” Laor notes. “It involved intensive writing by hand, with the constant anxiety that there would be no reply, and an effort to put everything into one letter, with a disconnect that generates fraught emotions and tension.”

Hollow space

Despite the limited quantity of Vogel’s creative output, Laor terms him one of “the most distinctive and most wonderful of poets at the height of Hebrew [literature] in the 20th century.” Vogel published only one book of poetry in his lifetime: “Before the Dark Gate” (1923; English translation, 1976). “A cult book for certain readers,” says Laor. Contrary to what is usually thought, however, the scholar emphasizes that Vogel was in fact esteemed in his lifetime, at least “in knowledgeable circles.”

But the major breakthrough in that respect occurred after his death. The fate of Vogel’s literary estate is a tale unto itself. He buried his writings in the yard of the house where he was living before his arrest by the Gestapo. After the war, an old friend of his unearthed the manuscripts, and another friend brought them to Israel, “as though bearing the poet’s ashes,” in Laor’s words. He passed the texts on to the writer and editor Asher Barash, who in 1950 founded the Hebrew Writers Association’s Gnazim Archive to preserve works by writers who had disappeared in the Holocaust. At the same time, Barash kept half of Vogel’s manuscripts in his apartment in Tel Aviv. After his death, in 1952, part of Barash’s estate was transferred to Gnazim, while the rest remained in his apartment. The story is that at the end of the 1970s, after the death of Barash’s widow, Olga, the then-director of the archive conducted a search of their home during which he tapped on a wall, producing a hollow sound. Removing the partition, he found the rest of the lost estate.

Though this story may be largely apocryphal, what is not in dispute is that since Vogel’s death, manuscripts of his writings have been discovered and published at a steady rate, constituting what Laor calls “perpetual discoveries.” In 1954, for example, poet Natan Zach “rediscovered” him and published a key article titled “In the Wake of a Forgotten Poet,” which, says Laor, “took Vogel to the center of literary discourse.” In 1966, another well-regarded poet, Dan Pagis, published “Before the Dark Gate” and thus “steered Vogel’s poetry into the country’s cultural conversation.” In 1981, poet and editor Aharon Komem discovered another book of poems by Vogel, “Toward the Silence,” and arranged for its publication.

Together with the acclaim he received as a poet, Vogel also found a place on center stage as a master of prose, even though he published only one novel and two novellas in his lifetime. It was only in 1986 that his novel “Married Life” – which was republished after its original manuscript was discovered in the remainder of Vogel’s estate – gained recognition as a pivotal work of modern Hebrew prose. Israeli became enamored of Vogel and of his preoccupation, in both poetry and fiction, with the human condition and the human psyche.

The “discoveries” concerning Vogel have continued. In 2012, literary scholar Lilach Netanel discovered a fragment of an unfinished novel, “Viennese Romance,” on yellowing paper in the Gnazim Archive. The novel (translated into English in 2013) is about an 18-year-old who leaves his native town and moves to Vienna, during the waning years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He interacts there with prostitutes, revolutionaries, army officers, paupers and businessmen, and has a relationship with his married landlady and with her adolescent daughter.

The new collection of letters, which acquaints readers with many sides of Vogel, is Laor’s contribution to continuing research into and occupation with Vogel’s oeuvre. In addition, Laor has taken an interest in the literary work of Ada Nadler-Vogel. A perusal of the letters indeed reveals that she is on equal ground as an interlocutor for Vogel, perhaps even a more dominant figure than he.

“She is revealed to be a very sensitive person, perceptive, and possessing ample writing ability,” Laor says, who thinks that she, too, had literary ambitions but they never achieved concrete expression.

With publication of “Ahava Ad Kalot," Laor hopes that the time will soon come to publish some of Nadler’s works, which he received from Tamara together with the letters. “I haven’t been able to grasp these writings fully, they’re difficult to decipher” in terms of the handwriting, he admits, but meanwhile, he observes, “she is the great surprise of this book.”

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Election ad featuring Yair Lapid in Rahat, the largest Arab city in Israel's Negev region.

This Bedouin City Could Decide Who Is Israel's Next Prime Minister

Dr. Claris Harbon in the neighborhood where she grew up in Ashdod.

A Women's Rights Lawyer Felt She Didn't Belong in Israel. So She Moved to Morocco

Mohammed 'Moha' Alshawamreh.

'It Was Real Shock to Move From a Little Muslim Village, to a Big Open World'

From the cover of 'Shmutz.'

'There Are Similarities Between the Hasidic Community and Pornography’

A scene from Netflix's "RRR."

‘RRR’: If Cocaine Were a Movie, It Would Look Like This

Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid's Journey: From Late-night Host to Israel's Prime Minister