Strange New World: Time in David Bergelson’s Literary Work

Delays, inaction, repetition, the failure to take advantage of opportunities, missing the right moment—all sound bad. We are constantly told to move on. Yet sometimes, not doing, daydreaming, and standing still can be positive, even, creative. David Bergelson lived in a time of enormous upheaval and violent change. His characters, in contrast, do nothing. What can we learn from Bergelson in the Strange New World we live in? Harriet Murav (University of Illinois) and Justin Cammy (Smith College) discuss the texture of time, futurity, and activating the unrealized potentialities of the discarded past in Bergelson’s literary work, drawing on Murav’s recently published book, Strange New World: Untimeliness, Futurity. The conversation begins with a general discussion about time and timing, using examples from The End of Everything, Bergelson’s 1913 masterpiece. We then turn to one of his most controversial novels, Judgment (1926) which, regardless of its sympathies for the Bolshevik cause, is not so interested in the new socialist future as much as the expansion of time and the exit from ongoing time found in holidays. The holiday, yontev, and the importance of holiday time (yontevdikayt) are key to Bergelson’s notion of creativity. To create literary work is to experience holiday time.

Also Available in the Archive