MEGGED, AHARON


MEGGED, AHARON (1920– ), Israeli writer. Born in Wloclavek, Poland, his family immigrated to Palestine in 1926. He joined kibbutz Sedot Yam and worked at the port of Haifa. Megged left the kibbutz in 1950 and settled in Tel Aviv where he edited the journal Ba-Sha'ar. Together with a number of friends, he founded the biweekly literary magazine Massa, which became the weekly literary supplement of the daily

La-Merḥav. From 1960 to 1971 he served as Israel's cultural attaché in London.

In his prose, which often has strong autobiographical elements, Megged moved from the realism of his early works to surrealism and back to realism. His first short story collection, Ru'aḥ Yamim ("Sea Winds," 1950), was inspired by life in Sedot Yam. Ḥedvah va-Ani ("Ḥedvah and I," 1964), a realistic novel, tells of the misfortunes of a kibbutz member who had to leave the kibbutz, much against his will, at the insistence of his wife. The protagonist is the first example of Megged's antihero, so typical of his later writings. Lonely, tortured by thoughts of his shortcomings, fearing above all ridicule and abasement, the antihero is always the outsider in an otherwise congenial and united society. In Mikreh ha-Kesil (1960; Fortunes of a Fool, 1962), he is the only "good man" who fails to join the "society of the wicked." Megged's most ambitious work, the novel Ha-Ḥai al-ha-Met (1965; The Living on the Dead, 1970), describes in unflattering terms modern Israeli society, and makes the accusation that the great expectations of the first pioneers have not been fulfilled by their successors. One of the most prolific and popular Hebrew writers, Megged mirrors the changes in Israeli society, highlighting moral standards and appealing for tolerance. Masa be-Av ("A Journey in the Month of Av," 1980) reflects on the Yom Kippur War and its repercussions; Ga'agu'im le-Olga ("Longings for Olga," 1994) depicts the unique relationship between a clerk with literary ambitions and a young Russian woman who becomes his muse; while Dudaim mi ha-Areẓ ha-Kedoshah ("Love-Flowers from the Holy Land," 1998) is the story of Beatrice, a devout Protestant who arrives in Palestine in 1906 in order to paint pictures of flowers mentioned in the Bible and gets entangled in local Arab-Jewish affairs. In Foygelman (1987; Foigelman, 2003), Megged portrays the fate of a Yiddish poet who hopes to find a new home and a sympathetic readership in Israel and encounters instead a total lack of interest in Yiddish as well as in the Diaspora past. Some of Megged's novels deal with authors and writing, describing with a fine sense of humor, often satirically, the literary milieu. Thus, for instance, the novel Ha-Gamal ha-Me'ofef ve-Dabbeshet ha-Zahav ("The Flying Camel and the Golden Hump," 1982; German translation, 1991) which focuses on the animosity between an Israeli writer and his neighbor, a literary critic, or Nikmat Yotam ("Yotam's Vengeance," 2003), which tells the story of a frustrated translator of Greek classics into Hebrew. Like many of Megged's novels, Yarḥei ha-Devash shel Profesor Lunẓ ("The Honeymoons of Professor Lunz," 2004) is a satire on Israeli society, relating the story of a bizarre marriage between an aged scholar of ancient Eastern studies and his second wife, Ayala, a student 50 years his junior.

Megged, a member of the Academy of Hebrew Language, was president of the Israel Center of PEN (1980–87). He received the Bialik Prize, the Brenner Prize, and the Agnon Prize and in 2003 was honored with the Israel Prize for literature. His stories and novels have been translated into several languages and his plays, including Genesis, Hannah Szenes, and the comedy I Like Mike, have been produced in Israel and abroad. "Tears" is included in G. Abramson (ed.), The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories (1996); "Hannah Senesh" in M. Taub (ed.), Israeli Holocaust Drama (1996); "The Name" in G. Ramras-Rauch and Y. Michman-Melkman (eds.), Facing the Holocaust (1985); "The First Sin," in H.S. Joseph, Modern Israeli Drama (1983). A list of his works translated into English appears in Goell, Bibliography, and further information is available at the ITHL website at www.ithl.org.il.

His brother MATTI (Matityahu) MEGGED (1923–2003), poet and literary critic, wrote a number of works that made their mark on the modern Hebrew literary scene. Ha-Migdal ha-Lavan (stories, 1949) and Or ha-Soreg (novel, 1953) are among his best-known fictional works; Ha-Drama ha-Modernit (1966), a collection of essays on drama, and Dostoevski, Kafka, Beckett are critical works. He lectured on Hebrew literature at the University of Haifa.

Aharon Megged's wife, EDA ZORITTE-MEGGED (1926– ), began publishing essays in 1955. She published her first novel, Perihah Afelah ("Somber Blossoming"), in 1969. Four novels followed, including a novel about Herzl's wife (Ishto ha-Menudah, 1997; German translation, 2001) and Ahavat Ḥayyim (2000). Zoritte also wrote a monograph on Nathan Alterman (1973), and biographies of the poets Amir Gilboa and Avot Yeshurun.

Aharon Megged's son EYAL MEGGED (1948– ), poet and novelist, was born in New York and grew up in Tel Aviv. He studied philosophy and art history and published his first collection of poems in 1972. This was followed by further poems, stories, and five novels, including Barbarossa (1973), Ḥesed Ne'urayikh ("Early Grace," 1999; German, 2005), and Ḥayyei Olam ("Everlasting Life," 2001).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 313–4; R. Wallenrod, The Literature of Modern Israel (1956), 212; Waxman, Literature, 5 (19602), 41–42; G. Avinor, in: Moznayim, 18 (1964), 258–63. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Agmon-Fruchtman, "Leshono shel Megged be-Ha-Ḥai al-ha-Met," in: Ha-Sifrut, 1 (1969), 723–725; S. Shifra, "Literature as an Act of Love: A. Megged," in: Ariel, 33–34 (1977), 33–42; M. Avishai, in: Al ha-Mishmar (January 21, 1977); A. Zehavi, in: Yedioth Aharonoth (February 25, 1977); idem, "The Tragedy of Immigrant Society," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 3:1–2 (1977), 81–84; O. Bartana, in: Yedioth Aharonoth (November 21, 1980); A. Feinberg, "Fathers and Sons: Aharon Megged's 'Journey in the Month of Av,'" in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 7:1–2 (1981–82), 16–20; Y. Berlovitz, in: Davar (January 2, 1981); idem, "Ha-Determinizm shel ha-Gibbor ben ha-Dor ha-Sheni," in: Iton, 77:28 (1981), 38–40; A. Feinberg: "A. Megged," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 8:3–4 (1983), 46–52; D. Laor, "Megged be-Ikvot Brecht," in: Haaretz (November 2, 1984); G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 4 (1993), 290–316; R. Feldhai Brenner, "Reflections of Zionism in Recent Hebrew Fiction," in: Shofar, 13:1 (1994), 68–69; M. Avishai, "A. Megged," in: Moznayim, 71:2 (1996), 15–18; Z. Shavitsky, "The Depiction of German Jewry by A. Megged and I. Zarhi," in: Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, 1 (1997), 56–70; H. Lewi, "Bestiaire d'A. Megged," in: Cahiers du Judaisme, 6 (1999–2000), 119–132; Y. Oren, "Kerisat Mitos ha-Ẓabariyyut be-Einei Gimlai Almoni,'" in: Ha-Umah, 146 (2001), 91–99; S. Nash, Hagigim Kiyyumiyyim, in: Hadoar, 81:4 (2002), 14–16; idem, "Itzik Manger, Foigelman and the Problem of the Anti-Hero," in: Hebrew Studies, 43 (2002), 57–85; idem, "Aharon Megged's Burden in his Portrayal of the Effects of Israel's Wars," in: History and Literature (2002), 389–407; A. Holtzman, "Ad Erev," in: Moznayim, 76:3 (2002), 3–5; N. Govrin, "Ha-Zeman ve-ha-Makom be-Limmud ha-Sifrut," in: Kivvunim Ḥadashim, 9 (2003), 122–134; S. Nash, "Sofrim ve-Nashim ke-Anti-Gibborim bi-Sefarav shel Aharon Megged," in: Iton, 77:278 (2003), 17–22; A. Feinberg, "The Old Man and the Satire," in: Modern Hebrew Literature, 2, New Series, 2005–6, 219–220.

[Gitta (Askenazy) Avinor /

Anat Feinberg (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.