Page 189 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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ABRAHAM REISEN AT SEVENTY-FIVE
By
P
h i l i p
R
u b i n
T
HE generation that drew to a close at the end of World
War I constituted the Golden Era of modern Yiddish litera-
ture. I t saw the maturing of the talents of the three great
Yiddish writers who are now known as the “classicists” —
Mendele Mocher-Seforim, the “grandfather,” the satirist in
fiction; Sholem Aleichem, the humorist; and Isaac Loeb Peretz,
the teller of hassidic tales. I t also marked the rise to fame of a
younger group of Yiddish writers — Sholem Asch, who today is
as well known to the English as to the Yiddish-reading world;
S. Ansky, author of
The Dybbuk
, who also wrote in Russian;
Zalman Schneuer, a pillar of modern Hebrew as well as Yiddish
literature; Peretz Hirshbein and David Pinski, playwrights; and
a number of others.
I t was in this generation, too, that Abraham Reisen, whose
seventy-fifth birthday was celebrated last winter throughout the
Yiddish-reading world, achieved stature as one of the foremost
figures in modern Yiddish letters. As poet and short story writer
Reisen during the early years of this century received the love
and homage of the Yiddish-speaking masses of Czarist Russia
and Poland whose stark poverty, whose dreams of a better life
for themselves and whose socialistic aspirations for a better
world he mirrored in his writings. No Yiddish writer, not even
Peretz — whose pupil Reisen was — nor Sholem Aleichem, had
a greater mass following than did Reisen. Several of his poems
were put to music and were sung at all underground gatherings
of Jewish revolutionaries during the days of the last Czar. Many
of his stories so impressed themselves on the minds of people
that they became subjects for household discussions for many
years after their initial appearance in print.
Avrohom — as his name is known to Yiddish readers — Reisen
was born in the little town of Koidenov in the province of Minsk.
I t is now more than sixty years since Reisen, at the age of fifteen,
published his first poem in a periodical that was edited by Peretz.
During the early years of his literary career Reisen lived in
Warsaw, which was gradually becoming the center of Yiddish
letters. Later on he resided in various European capitals until
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