• Yael Almog Center for Literary and Cultural Research, Berlin, Germany


The article investigates David Grossman’s To the End of the Land as an intervention into debates on the presence of myth in Israeli society. Do resonances of the Bible in Modern Hebrew perpetuate biblical narratives as constitutive to Israeli collective memory? Do literary references to the Bible dictate the rootedness of Hebrew speakers to the Land? Grossman’s novel discerns the implications of these questions for the political agency of individuals. It does so through the striking adaptation of a motif much frequented in Israeli literature: the Binding of Isaac. The prominent biblical myth is transformed in the novel through a set of interplays: the unusual enactment of the Akedah scene by a matriarch; original exegeses of biblical names; and the merging of several biblical narratives into the novel’s structure. The protagonists reveal their “awareness” of these interplays, when they reflect on the correspondence of their “lives” with various biblical narratives – whose divergence from one another enable them to negotiate the overdetermination of myth in political discourse. The article argues that the novel’s reflective stance on the role of myth in Israeli society is codependent on the philosophy of language that it develops. To the End of the Land features language acquisition, linguistic interferences with Israel’s main vernacular by other languages, word play and semiotic collapse. Through the presentation of linguistic utterances as contingent, associative, subjective and ever-changing, the identification with biblical narratives is rendered volatile. To the End of the Land questions the limits of Israeli literature in redefining the valence of the language in which it is written as well as the ability of literary texts to reshape major conditions for their own reception: collective memory and national motifs.

Keywords: David Grossman, myth, Hebrew, Akedah, Israeli Literature


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