'The Horror' in Hebrew: Heart of Darkness in Israeli Culture

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Abstract

Tracing the intricate presence of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in Israeli culture, this essay explores how elements of the novella (the journey to Africa, the iconic Kurtz, and the nature of 'darkness') have been repeatedly evoked, both implicitly and explicitly, in various cultural contexts. Focusing on three major episodes - the emergence of political Zionism in the 1890s; young Israel's intensive involvement in Black Africa in the 1960s; and the pessimism that engulfed Israeli society after the 1973 war - the essay suggests that the novella's relevance to Israeli culture is rooted in the work's fluid allegorical mode, which parallels tensions and contradictions that have characterized the Zionist project from its inception. This mirroring reached a climax in the journalistic work of Adam Baruch, who offered a highly stylized postcolonial reworking of Heart of Darkness in his influential account of a journey undertaken to find a disgraced Israeli general, self-exiled in Africa. The search for the Israeli 'Kurtz' thus continues to function as a powerful emblem of Israel's colonial violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-334
Number of pages16
JournalInterventions
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 May 2016

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