Printing Proof of The Land of the Hebrews
Das Hebräerland (»The Land of Hebrews«) is an orientalist novel set in a utopian 1930s version of British Mandate Palestine. It was published in Zurich in 1937. Lasker-Schüler had been living in exile there since 1933, interrupted only by a trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1934. In her idealized »Hebrew land«, »stones, stones [lie] everywhere and they have, so they say in Palestine, fallen from the hearts of Jews arriving in the Holy Land«. Yet in the hearts of the children of those who escaped »the fathers’ fear of the persecutors« lives on. Das Hebräerland is not so much an analysis of the conditions in Palestine, and rather a lament over the »anti-Semitic metropoles« and the »bloody frenzy of the pogrom« in the »cherished step-world [Stiefwelt] of Europe«.
At the same time, this illustrated book is an extensive summary or a review of forty years of poetry. It is full of explanations and allusions to earlier publications, as well as illuminations on Lasker-Schüler’s understanding of poetry as a whole. Within the book itself, the author reflects on its genesis: »It was not from the balcony of my Jerusalemite guest house that I drew the venerable Hasidic priests on their pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall on the morning of revelation; only when I returned home to Europe«. On 30 September 1935, Lasker-Schüler wrote to Sylvain Guggenheim, who with financial support enabled the publication of the book: »No one could fathom why a book should be sent to the goldsmith’s, so to speak. I have gilded every word and am now – satisfied«. The corrected proofs at the National Library of Israel show how intensively Lasker-Schüler ›polishes‹ her texts – quite in contrast to the prejudice of a spontaneous and intuitive writing process with which Lasker-Schüler, as a female author, is sometimes confronted.
At the margins of this piece of paper she drew little flowers, as she often did in letters. »Privately to the kind Mister Typesetter, with many thanks for all his efforts«, next to which is written: »Mister Typesetter, please print ›Schabbatt‹, ›Heerde‹, and ›Schaar‹ just so. This is how (David) once spoke ›Schabbatt‹. For the double ee and aa sound more dreamy and purled«. The sound and idiosyncratic spelling of these words merge into a synaesthetic unity. The readers are meant to sense the rhythm of an imaginary antiquity. The typesetter was probably not very interested in how David once pronounced »Schabbatt«. This unpublished document shows how radically Lasker-Schüler blends art and everyday life. Even her instructions for the craftsmen are poetic.