In this essay, I define a genre unique to Israeli literature, the genre of soldier’s experience, which I distinguish from war novels. I then trace the genre’s transformation by exploring three distinct moments in its development: S. Yizhar’s Khirbet Khizeh (1949), Yehoshua Kenaz’s Infiltration (1986), and Ron Leshem’s Beaufort (2005). I argue that each literary work corresponds to a distinct moment in Israeli history, so that each moment’s transformations of literary form and subject matter are read as attempting to present an imaginary solution to the social contradictions of that particular moment. In the case of Yizhar’s novella, I show how it registers the collapse of the Zionist utopian project and the repression of this failure; for Kenaz’s Infiltration, I show how its formal “postmodernism” expresses negatively the proletarianization of Palestinians by Israeli capital after the 1967 war; for Leshem’s Beaufort, I show how it registers the neoliberalization of the Israeli welfare state and a growing recognition of the loss of historicity as a political problem. I conclude by suggesting that my reading of these works fundamentally challenges their received ahistorical interpretations as either challenging or affirming Zionist ideology, conceived simplistically as illusory content.
"Utopian Tremors, or, the Enigmatic Restlessness of the Israeli Literary Soldier,"
Criticism: Vol. 60:
3, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol60/iss3/6