Event Reports

A Liberator of German Language

Tuvia Rübner received KAS Literature Award 2012

The Israeli poet and translator Tuvia Rübner has been honored with the Literature Award of the Konrad–Adenauer-Stiftung in Weimar, Germany. His poems, written in Hebrew and German, are considered great works of Hebrew modernity. "He is one of the liberators of our language, because he has continued to write in German in the face of the evil and misery of the 20th Century," said Adolf Muschg in his eulogy for the 88-year-old Israeli. Rübner is the 20th laureate of the Literature Prize that was previously given to Herta Müller and Arno Geiger, among others.

This year's winner was born in January 1924 in Bratislava. His parents and his sister Alice were deported to Auschwitz in 1942 and murdered there. In May 1941, Rübner fled from the Nazis to the Kibbutz Merchavia, where he is living to this day. In the beginning, Tuvia Rübner worked in the Kibbutz for twelve years as a shepherd. At that time he also learned Modern Hebrew becoming a "virtuous writer and translator," as the Chairman of the Konrad–Adenauer-Stiftung, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, explained in his welcome speech.

Having written his poetry first in German, Rübner published his work between 1954 till 1992in Ivrit. After his retirement as a professor of literature at Haifa University, he devoted himself again to the translation of his poems into German. Recently, he published the poetry volumes "Late Praise of Beauty" and "Light Shade". The Prime Minister of Thuringia, Mrs. Christine Lieberknecht, expressed words of gratitude for Rübner with regard to the "profound humanism" that runs through his lyrics and poems. "With your work you offer us the bond of understanding that the Germans have deliberately cut," she said, turning to the award winner.

"The choice was quick and neat, but a long way lies behind it," as Adolf Muschg described this year's decision by the jury chaired by Prof. Birgit Lermen. The Swiss writer called Rübner a "poet of German language who stands for the non-past (Unvergangenheit) of a German-Jewish connection.”

Muschg remarked on the great work Jewish authors contributed to German literature in the early 20th century. Among others, he referred to Franz Kafka, Arthur Schnitzler, and Else Lasker-Schüler. Therefore, the award ceremony for Tuvia Rübner should also be an occasion to remember what the Germans under Hitler did not only do to the Jews of Europe and the world, but first and foremost to themselves, as Muschg said - "an unprecedented destruction of one's own values."

Thanks to poets like Rübner, the people of German language did not have to lead their guilt discourse in a “hopelessly provincial manner", Muschg continued. "Rübner has kept his promise to the German language. He did not even abandon it when it became a waste of a German empire that wanted to throw him to waste."

The Israeli writer, who attended the ceremony along with his wife Galila and his daughter Miriam, discussed later on the numerous paradoxes that have been shaping his life. As an example he hinted to the ceremony’s venue, Weimar, the city of Goethe, in its immediate proximity to the concentration camp of Buchenwald. Rübner pointed to his latest book translated from Hebrew "Conflicting poems". It was guided by the realization that there was "something common in the opposite and contradictory". In the accelerated time of the modern world the paradox was "the chirping of a mental attitude that recalls a century-long tradition, but remains adamant against the spreading primitivism.”

Translated by Motje Seidler