May 6 2020

Roni Henig: Multilingual Anxiety and the Invention of the Hebrew Native

Roni Henig has published a new article, “Multilingual Anxiety and the Invention of the Hebrew Native: A Reading of a Hebrew Feuilleton by S. Ben Zion,” in the literary review Dibur.

“In a Hebrew feuilleton published in Palestine in 1907, a startling linguistic horizon is portrayed in stark ironical tones. The narrator’s daughter, pompously named ‘the daughter of Zion,’ speaks no fewer than eight languages, one for each year of her life. Despite ongoing endeavors to create a Zionist Hebrew-speaking home, the father-narrator is amazed to discover that at the age of eight, his daughter — an epitome of the next generation of Jewish settlers in Palestine, the hope and future of the Yishuv — has become a living Babel. Shifting from one language to the next while consistently neglecting her Hebrew, the girl embodies an uncontrollable evolution of the project of revival. By the end of the feuilleton, a perplexed, mute father faces his offspring, astounded by the multilingual reality brought about by his own pseudoheroic efforts to form a native Hebrew identity.”

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