Page 176 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
170
were creating their masterpieces. In this country Yiddish prose
was still in its beginnings.
At that time there appeared here almost simultaneously three
Yiddish prose writers: Jacob Gordin, Leon Kobrin and Z. Libin.
All three began at the same time to write stories as well as plays
for the theatre. The Yiddish theatre was then in its first bios-
soming.
Among these three prose writers who began their creative
activity between 1892 and 1894, Z. Libin was and remained
primarily the delineator of the East Side and the sweatshop. He
was not preoccupied with general human and particular Jewish
problems, as was Jacob Gordin, nor with the psychological prob-
lems of instinct, as was Leon Kobrin. He devoted himself to
a realistic portraiture of the poor man and his environment.
Through the short story Libin carried out the same mission to
which Morris Rosenfeld, the poet of the sweatshop, had dedicated
himself in his poems.
In this country Z. Libin was the pioneer of the Yiddish short
story, just as Abraham Reisen at that time was pioneering in
the same field in Europe. From Libin’s pen there came a number
of truly fine examples of the short story, though because he
worked for daily newspapers, particularly the
Forward
, he also
published hurriedly many lighter and inconsequential pieces in
an effort to adapt himself to the readers of the daily Yiddish
press. There is no doubt, however, that Libin is a man of great
talent, being gifted with warm lyricism and humor. Thus Libin
in his dramas and melodramas was wont to cater too much to
the demands of the common people, of the masses. But he also
has written several plays whose deep emotion is impressive and
moving. The best Yiddish actors of that era, such as Jacob P.
Adler, Kenny Liptzin, David Kessler and others, appeared in
Libin’s plays.
When one goes through the pages of Libin’s books one ex-
periences the life of the Jewish working masses of those days and
their daily problems. One then enters the labyrinth of the former
East Side, just as one enters, according to a beautiful story of
Libin’s, the “labyrinth of an old tenement house.” We walk
again on Suffolk, Norfolk and Hester Streets.
Libin is in reality the writer of laughter and tears. In his work
sadness and humor are interwoven. Sometimes his humor be-
comes sharply dramatic when he speaks of hungry children, and
then there come burning tears. His humor turns into mockery
when he describes a “schlimmazel,” or a fool. As a writer Libin
felt deeply the chasm between the ideal and the crassly material,
between dream and reality. Out of such situations there often