BARON, DEVORAH (1887–1956), Hebrew author. Daughter of a rabbi, she was born in Ozdah, Belorussia, and published her first Hebrew stories in Eastern European periodicals (
). In 1911 she settled in Ereẓ Israel and later married
, a prominent Labor Zionist leader and the editor of
, for which she was the literary editor.
She published Sippurim, her first volume of short stories in 1927, and in 1934, when the Bialik Prize was instituted, she was its first recipient. Following her husband's death in 1937, she edited his collected works together with Eliezer Shoḥat. She received awards for Le-Et Attah (1943), a volume of short stories drawn from her experiences as an exile in Egypt during World War I, and for her collected short stories Parshiyyot (1951). Childhood reminiscences and Jewish life in Eastern Europe are major themes in Devorah Baron's fiction. Her style, influenced by 19th-century European fiction, combines realism with impressionism. She writes movingly of her parents' home and her mother is often her favorite heroine. She is first described in "Bereshit" ("In the Beginning"), in "Meẓulah" ("Depths"), and in other stories, frequently portrayed as an unfortunate widow, struggling to maintain her orphaned children. Devorah Baron's Jewish town is permeated by a deep sense of loneliness experienced in the midst of an alien world and of the insecurity caused by poverty and anti-Jewish prejudice. At the same time, until the Holocaust, the Jewish town throbbed with a life which drew upon the inner resources of a deep faith. Its spirit was nurtured by a remarkable historical memory; its physical existence was safeguarded by the fertility of its families. The story "Mishpaḥah" ("Family"), for example, describes how an attempt to force divorce upon a childless couple is prevented, and ends with a miracle of triumphant motherhood. Me-Emesh ("Since Last Night," 1956), the last volume to be published during the writer's lifetime, contains four stories which describe Ereẓ Israel during World War II, the volunteers who joined the British Army, and an encounter with the remnants of European Jewry. The short story of one bereaved mother epitomizes the fate of the Jewish town and of all Eastern European Jewry, from the period of the slaughter of the defenseless in "normal" times to the "final solution" under the Nazis.
In her later years, while confined to her sickbed, Devorah Baron composed a group of stories depicting the world as seen through the window of an "invalid's room" ("Be-Lev ha-Kerakh," in Parashiyyot). Her perception remained sharp to the end, and her stories are animated by a deep empathy for the weak and the innocent. No other woman writer in Israel was as familiar with the sources of Judaism as Devorah Baron. Every human experience in her stories finds an echo in the age-old heritage of her people and in its literature. The rhythm of almost every period of Hebrew prose is clearly felt in the flow of her narrative. She is a true poet of the lost world of the Jewish town. In the wake of the growing interest in the works of Hebrew women writers, various academic studies and plays (e.g., those by Avivah Gali) have dealt with the life and writing of Baron. A selection of her stories translated into English appeared in 1969 under the title The Thorny Path, followed in 2001 by The First Day and Other Stories. A list of her works translated into English appears in Goell, Bibliography, 62. Bibliographical information and 118 letters appear in the posthumously published Aggav Orḥa (1960).
J. Fichmann, Benei Dor (1952), 254–87; Y. Keshet, Maskiyyot (1953), 82–100; Y. Zmora, Sifrut al Parashat Dorot, 3 (1950), 113–30; R. Wallenrod, The Literature of Modern Israel (1956), index; R. Katznelson-Shazar, Al Admat ha-Ivrit (1966). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 1 (1977), 452–66; N. Govrin, Ha-Maḥẓit ha-Rishonah: Devorah Baron, Ḥayyehah vi-Yeẓiratah (1988); L. Rattok, Ha-Kol ha-Aḥer: Sipporet Nashim Ivrit (1994), 274–87; A. Lieblich, Conversations with Dvora: An Experimental Biography of the First Modern Hebrew Writer (1977); N. Seidman, A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish (1997); O. Lubin, Ishah Koret Ishah (2003), 116–59; 240–53. WEBSITE: www.ithl.org.il.
[Rachel (Katznelson) Shazar]
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