Pinhas Sadeh: The poet as “the single individual”

Sharon Krishek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Pinhas Sadeh (1929-94) is a well-known Israeli poet, novelist, and essayist, whose work is characterized by a deep existential religiosity. Born in Lwów, Poland in 1929, he arrived in pre-state Israel with his parents at the age of five. Severe poverty in their new home in Tel Aviv and discord between his parents led them to place him in a boarding school when he was ten. At fourteen, on his own initiative, he moved to Kibbutz Sarid in the Jezreel Valley, but left three years later. He spent a short time in Tel Aviv working at occasional jobs, but soon left for Jerusalem where he began his active life as a poet. He rented a small room in an attic and dedicated his days and nights to writing. In 1948 he enlisted in the army and fought in the War of Independence. Upon discharge two years later he again fell back on occasional jobs, now to earn money for a trip to London in 1951. There he remained for almost a year. He loved London deeply but felt that the peace-the warm friendliness and also, significantly, artistic acknowledgment-that this city granted him did not allow him to fulfill his vocation as a poet. This decision quite vividly reflects Sadeh’s understanding of what it means to be a poet, and helps illustrate the type of person he was. Here is his account of why he left London, voicing an expression of the basic incompatibility he perceived between the comforts of social life and the suffering of the dedicated individual; an incompatibility he was struggling with his entire life and which strongly connected him to Kierkegaard’s thought, as we shall see below: So how could I then, how could I seek for myself a share of this social life? How could I seek a share, and thus lose the perfection, the totality of the world that had been revealed to me, how could I seek happiness, or status, or fame, or success, or satisfaction, how could I ask for thirty pieces of silver? God be my witness, I needed those thirty pieces of silver. They were a temptation to me. But I felt that what I had to do was to go down into the deepest, the most desperate abyss, to the people the most needful (though they know it not) of salvation. I felt that I had to sacrifice myself to the throes of redemption in the hardest but most necessary place of all-that is to say, I felt I had to return to where I came from 1.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationVolume 12, Tome V
Subtitle of host publicationKierkegaard's Influence on Literature, Criticism and Art: The Romance Languages, Central and Eastern Europe
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781351875158
ISBN (Print)9781315234809
StatePublished - 5 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Jon Stewart and the contributors 2013.


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