||First and perhaps only edition of this mainly autobiographical first novel by the renowned poetess and literary critic Lea Goldberg. Mikhtavim mi-Nesi’ah Medummah (Letters from an Imaginary Journey) is one of only two major prose works. Loosely structured, it refers to a later period in her sad and unhappy life and gives an insight into her basically aristocratic view of the arts. The text is accompanied by reproductions of handrawn illusatrations.
Lea Goldberg, (1911–1970) was born in Koenigsberg, Eastern Prussia, but spent the early years of her childhood in Russia . After the Revolution her family returned to their home in Kovno, Lithuania. While still a schoolgirl, Lea Goldberg began to write Hebrew verse and her first poem was published in Hed Lita in 1926. She attended the universities of Kovno, Berlin, and Bonn. Arriving in Tel Aviv in 1935, she joined the circle of modernist authors, whose mentor was Avraham Shlonsky, and began publishing her poetry in Turim, the literary forum of the group. Shlonsky helped her compile her first volume of poetry Tabbe'ot Ashan ("Smoke Rings," 1935). After a career as a schoolteacher, she joined the editorial staffs of Davar and later Mishmar in the capacity of theater critic and eventually became editor of Al ha-Mishmar's literary supplement. She also served on the staff of Davar li-Yladim, a popular children's magazine, was the children's book editor of Sifriyyat Po'alim, and the literary adviser to Habimah, Israel's national theater. In 1952 she was invited to organize the Department of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem holding the chair until her death. A prolific and versatile writer, Lea Goldberg's literary talent found expression in many genres. Primarily a poet, she was also a literary critic, wrote a number of children's works, was a copious translator, and the author of a novel and a play.
All of Lea Goldberg's poetry is written in the modern mode set by the school of younger poets that developed in Erez Israel during the Mandate period. Influenced by the Russian Acmeist poets (a literary trend which rejected symbolism, aiming at concrete imagery and a clear unadorned style), she used traditional verse forms, expressing her modernism through a conversational style which eschewed the ornate rhetoric of many of her predecessors and the bombastic expressionism of her contemporaries. Her language though symbolic is simple and familiar in which ordinary words, images, rhythms, and rhymes have an astonishing freshness. The later verse is stripped of all "literary" pretensions; the poet thus strove to evolve a style of direct and unencumbered statement of the poetic experience. Lea Goldberg's tendency toward aesthetic intellectualism is modified by a lyrical delicacy. She refused to write ideological verse and unlike her contemporaries she rarely touched upon Jewish themes. Only in the aftermath of the Holocaust did she express her feelings in a Jewish framework (Mi-Beiti ha-Yashan, "From my Old Home," 1944). Universal in her approach, she wrote on childhood, nature, love (especially unfulfilled love), the quest for aesthetic expression, aging, and death. In her later years her central themes were resignation to the tragedy of existence and finding solace in the poetry unexpectedly discovered in ordinary phenomena. Among her outstanding poems are: "Mi-Shirei ha-Nahal" ("The Songs of the Stream" in: Al ha-Perihah, 1948) in which she employed natural symbols such as river, stone, tree, moon, and blade of grass to serve as a vehicle for the poetic presentation of aesthetic problems of the creative artists; "Be-Harei Yerushalayim" ("In the Hills of Jerusalem" in: Barak ba-Boker, 1956), one of her best landscape poems, set in Jerusalem, the city in which she resided for many years; and "Ahavatah shel Teresa di Mon" ("The Love of Therese du Meun," in Barak ba-Boker), a series of sonnets purportedly written in the 17th century by an aging aristocrat on her unconfessed love for her children's young tutor.
An avid reader, Lea Goldberg was at home in the literature of all the major European languages. She was most familiar with Russian literature and wrote Ahdut ha-Adam ve-ha-Yekum bi-Yzirat Tolstoy ("The Unity of World and Man in Tolstoy's Works," 1959), as well as a collection of essays on Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Herzen, and Chekhov entitled Ha-Sifrut ha-Rusit ba-Me'ah ha-Tesha-Esreh (1968). Lea Goldberg was also well versed in Italian literature and wrote an introduction to Dante's Divine Comedy (Mavo la-Komedyah ha-Elohit, mimeograph, 1958) and a preface to her translation of selected poems by Petrarch (1957). In Hamishah Perakim bi-Ysodot ha-Shirah ("Five Chapters in the Elements of Poetry," 1957), a more systematic attempt at studying the problems of poetry, she discusses poetic theory, meter, rhyme, and symbol. Each chapter begins with a close reading of a Hebrew poem which is used to illustrate her specific hypothesis posited. In contrast to her generalizations about poetry, which reflect accepted literary criteria, the interpretations of specific works show an original and creative poetic mind. The same can be said about her study Ommanut ha-Sippur ("The Art of the Short Story," 1963). Lea Goldberg was one of Israel's most successful children's writers. She was able to enter the world of children, communicate with them, and establish a bond of friendship with all children not only through the written word but by live contact. She wrote about 20 works for children. A whole generation of Israelis grew up on her stories and poems (see Children's Literature). Goldberg’s other major prose work is Ve-Hu ha-Or (He Is The Light, 1946), also mainly autobiographical, but this set in Lithuania and describing the struggle of a young and sensitive girl student for identity, despite insecurities rooted in a background of mental illness in her immediate family. The struggle between leftist politics and art is the theme of her single play Ba'alat ha-Armon ("Lady of the Manor," 1956) which is set in postwar Europe. The play (in English translation) was staged in New York but was not a critical success. She also translated numerous European classics into Hebrew.