Yehuda Amichai

The Making of Israel’s National Poet

Nili Scharf Gold

Yehuda Amichai is one of the twentieth century’s (and Israel’s) leading poets. In this remarkable book, Nili Scharf Gold offers a profound reinterpretation of Amichai’s early works and reconstructs his poetic biography. Her close reading of his oeuvre, untapped notebooks, and a cache of unpublished letters to a woman identified as Ruth Z. that Gold discovered convincingly demonstrates how the poet’s German past infused his work, despite his attempts to conceal it as he adopted an Israeli identity.

Cover Image of Yehuda Amichai: The Making of Israel’s National Poet
E-book: $35.99 | Paper: $40
ISBN-13: 9781584658122
Pages: 468 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: September 30, 2008

The complexities of the Hebrew revival are at the center of Gold’s exhaustively researched, passionately argued and highly persuasive study of Yehuda Amichai, Israel’s ‘beloved unofficial national poet.’

The Washington Post


  • Nili Scharf Gold is an impressive scholar, and her reading of Amichai’s poems is enormously valuable. ... There is genuinely new and useful material is this book. ... He was always Israel’s best ambassador, whether on a public stage or in a social gathering, and that is the memory that will endure. But Nili Scharf Gold has given us fresh look and an important book. Anyone interested in Amichai will be grateful for it.

    Jewish Quarterly
  • The complexities of the Hebrew revival are at the center of Gold’s exhaustively researched, passionately argued and highly persuasive study of Yehuda Amichai, Israel's 'beloved unofficial national poet.'

    The Washington Post
  • Groundbreaking. ... Gold’s skillful efforts have yielded an achievement of serious scholarship and academic significance.

    Jerusalem Post
  • This is a persuasive, unique book that is strongly supported by sources and poetry, a book that presents a new poet — more complex and fascinating than ever, and a faithful representative of his people. Not only does the new side of Amichai revealed in Gold’s book enrich his marvelous poetry, it depicts Israel as a multicultural society, gathered from all ends of the earth, bearing numerous and varied traditions.

  • Gold sheds new light not only on the life and work of this great poet but on the very nature of poetry itself.

    Robert A. Caro
    Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and author of "The Years of Lyndon Johnson"
  • An impassioned and insightful reading that seamlessly merges the story of one individual — a budding poet — with the story of a people during a decisive chapter in their national history. This book is a must for scholars of literature.

    Yigal Schwartz
    Ben Gurion University, Israel
  • Her book will be indispensable for all future studies of Amichai’s poetry.

    Arnold Band
    professor emeritus, UCLA
  • With the help of a treasure trove of retrieved love letters, Nili Scharf Gold has changed the landscape for understanding the poetry of Yehuda Amichai. Gold demonstrates in exquisite detail the extent to which “Israel’s national poet” camouflaged the German childhood that continued to haunt him.

    Stephen Fredman
    author of "A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry"
  • Nili Gold’s exciting book offers a surprisingly fresh look into the creative laboratory of Israel’s beloved poetic spokesman, Yehuda Amichi. Combining meticulous research of untapped sources with superb intuition, Gold’s detective work uncovers the landscape of German childhood and mother tongue, both well hidden in plain sight — between and behind the Hebrew verses of Israel’s “national” poet. Using her startling findings to great effect, the author charts a unique roadmap of the life and verse of Amichai, raising, along the way, questions about other 'Minoan' layers similarly hiding in the literary corpus of every immigrant culture.

    Yael S. Feldman
    Katsh Professor of Hebrew Culture at NYU, author of "No Room of Their Own"

About the Author

NILI SCHARF GOLD is a professor of modern Hebrew literature at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Not Like a Cypress (Hebrew) and Haifa: City of Steps.

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