Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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45
L
ip t z in
— Y
id d ish
F
ict ion
Hassidic tales include
The Rabb i of Nemerow
and
Between Two
Mountains.
In other beautiful novellettes and short stories, he
opened for his readers the gates of dreamland and invited them
to stroll about under starlight. He often made use of the super-
natural, as in
Bontsie Shvayg
(Bontshe the Silent), for poetic
effects and for stimulating the reader’s imagination. He was the
tribune of the Jewish masses of Eastern Europe, the voice of
their conscience, the spokesman for their striving. He expressed
the pain, idealism and messianic hope that were lodged in the
Jewish heart.
Peretz had many illustrious disciples whose literary career he
furthered. What Peretz meant to them was once formulated by
Abraham Reisen (1876-1953). He recalled that the precious
chain of Jewish traditions lay dust-covered and forgotten while
Jewish intellectuals, reaching out for foreign treasures, were
being rebuffed as intruders. Then came Peretz who brought back
their own glittering Golden Chain and reawakened their pride
in their heritage.
Reisen himself attempted a synthesis of the biblical and the
modern. His short stories, like his poems, were characterized by
simplicity, kindness, and mild humor.
A second disciple of Peretz, David Pinski (1872-1959), was a
more dynamic personality than the gentle Reisen. Pinski came
to America in 1899 and his novels of American-Jewish life, such
as
The House of Noah Eden
(1929) and
Arnold Levenberg
(1925), provide deep insight into the immigrant and post-im-
migrant generations. He was not content merely to transmute
reality into beauty; he sought to convert dreams and thoughts
into deeds. He brought a note of vigorous optimism and of joy
in strenuous living, lacking in the meek Reisen.
Other talented novelists who looked to Peretz as their mentor
included H. D. Nomberg (1874-1927), 1. M. Vaisenberg (1881-
1938), Peretz Hirshbein (1880-1948), and Sholem Asch (1880-
1957). Like Pinski, Hirshbein and Asch began their literary
careers in the Czarist realm but reached their climax in the
United States, and also like Pinski, they were gifted both in
fiction and in drama. Hirshbein’s most ambitious efforts as a
storyteller were two novels:
Ro i t e Felder
(Red Fields, 1935)
which deals with the post-Revolutionary efforts to settle Jews
in Crimean agricultural collectives, and
Bovel
(Babylon, 1942)
which describes the disintegration of old Jewish ways in the
phantasmagoric metropolis of New York.
Sholem Asch as Storyteller
Sholem Asch rose to fame as a storyteller with his idyllic tales
Dos Shtetl
(The Townlet, 1904) and
Reb Shlome Nag id
(1913).