Life is a Story: Narrative and Identity in the War Poetry of Dan Pagis and Charles Simic

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Abstract

The use of the conceptual metaphor of “life is a story” can be conceived as reciprocally or bidirectionally transforming both life and story. Thus this metaphor structures life into a coherent narrative—with a linear, and causally-related, progression of events and relationships—while also realizing the varied interpretive potentials of “a story as life.” Such aspects of this metaphor are essential to understanding how the two poets, the Israeli Dan Pagis and the American Charles Simic, shape their identities not only as the poetic speaker or the “I” of poetry but also as that of a storyteller. The lives of both these poets demonstrate a similar trajectory of war, as well as a displacement that is geographical, cultural and linguistic: childhood and youth in a war-torn Europe; immigration at the age of sixteen to another, non-European country; and the adoption of a new language as the focus and instrument of poetic creation. Studying their poems in two sections—visual narrative and fictional narrative—provides the opportunity to see how narrative and poetic identity coalesce in the face of displacement and war. What is more, it provides the opportunity to develop the concept of narrativity within the poetic text, also discovering the ways in which these poets embed photographic, cinematographic and literary images within such a narrative. Finally, the use of the fable by these two poets illuminates a connection among various genres (poetry, interview, memoir, book review), as well as among various literary cultures (German, Hebrew, Graeco-Latin, English).

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalCLCWeb - Comparative Literature and Culture
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

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