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This report is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

'Every rising's not-yet': A Thought on Michael Hamburger Mark Dow

A Thought on Michael Hamburger (1924-2007)

'It was one thing to bring Eichmann to trial so as to establish and commemorate the nature of his part in the atrocities,' Michael Hamburger told Peter Dale, 'quite another to suppose for a moment that his conviction and punishment could bear any relation to what he had done to others.' Dale had asked about two war poems; 'In a Cold Season' (1961) deals explicitly with Adolf Eichmann. Hamburger continued with this astonishing leap: 'Only the paradox of his gratuitous acquittal could have jolted Eichmann himself to the faintest awareness of his guilt.' In the poem, Hamburger writes of the 'Real women children men', the absence of commas there carrying the risky burden of blurring the dead in order to make their uncountability more vivid:

Probing his words with their words my words fail.
Cold cold with words I cannot break the shell
And almost dare not lest his whole truth be
To have no core but unreality.

In the next section of the poem, Hamburger memorialises his own Polish-born grandmother, who was forced to send a postcard to her son in England ('Am going on a journey'), and then he returns to Eichmann, his true subject here: 'And yet and yet I would not have him die.' The poem was translated into Hebrew for an Israeli newspaper; Hamburger told Dale that he'd heard that only Martin Buber had ...

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