Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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DAVID PINSKI: NESTOR OF YIDDISH
LITERATURE
By
S
ol
L
i ptz in
D
AVID PINSKI is an able interpreter of the Jewish past, an
ardent seeker for the meaning of the Jewish present, a firm
believer in a glorious future for the Jewish people. He is a prolific
writer, who has written works that will endure, and also works
that are ephemeral. A bibliography of his more significant writings
embraces more than two hundred items: plays and novels, volumes
of verse and of essays, collections of short stories and travel
sketches.
Pinski is not of the titans of this earth. He is of the good of
this earth. He does not demolish or devastate; he comforts and
consoles. His star, with all its brightness, cannot be likened to
that brilliant orb which, at the time of his birth in 1872, illumined
the Jewish horizon and transformed the entire course of Yid­
dish literature — that storming, seething, Promethean pioneer,
Mendele Mokher Sforim. It was the fire of his wrath that swept
over Kabtzansk and Glupsk and Tuneyandevke, lighting up their
dark alleys and decaying hovels, their dusty roads, their congealed
souls, their stagnant institutions, searing and scorching, destroying
and renovating. Nor can we rank Pinski with his teacher, Yitzhak
Leibush Peretz, the Prince of the Ghetto, to whom in 1892 the
budding novelist brought the early products of his pen for critical
judgment and of whom he was ever proud to acknowledge himself
an epigone and disciple. Nor does Pinski equal Sholem Aleichem,
the lord of laughter, behind whose sparkling eyes a hidden tear
wells up, as he penetrates with his gaze the market-squares of
Kasrilevke and Yehupetz.
The term
classics
must be reserved for the Big Three of Yiddish
literature: Mendele, Peretz and Sholem Aleichem. Pinski arrived
somewhat later. He learned from these giants the art of interpret­
ing the Jewish soul in the Yiddish tongue. He continued many
of their traditions in style and content. But he went further,
enriching Yiddish literature with new themes and original ap­
proaches. Above all, he brought to mere living a note of optimism
and joy which was so necessary to Eastern European Jewry but
was lacking a half-century ago. The smile of Mendele is a sardonic
smile barbed with bitterness. The wisdom of Peretz is the mel­
ancholy wisdom of
Koheleth.
And the laughter of Sholem Aleichem
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