Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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47
L
ip t z in
— Y
id d ish
F
ict ion
Yiddish fiction. Both writers were liquidated along with the
elite of the Yiddish Parnassus in the last years of Stalin’s regime.
Among Palestinian writers Zalman Schneour (1887-1959)
wrote his finest lyrics in Hebrew, but his best novels, dealing
with his native town of Shklov, in Yiddish.
The Polish milieu was dominant in the work of I. J. Singer
(1893-1944), whose novels
Yoshe Ka lb
and
Brothers Ashkenazi
were successfully staged by Maurice Schwartz in New York’s
Yiddish Art Theater. It was also conspicuous in the work of
Joseph Opatoshu (1887-1954), who spent almost his entire adult
life in New York but whose best known novel
In Poil ishe Velder
(In Polish Forests, 1921) was part of a memorable trilogy of
Jewish life in the land of his birth.
In America, Yiddish novelists continued to base their narra-
tives on Old World memories or else concentrated on the painful
adjustment of Jewish immigrants to the New World. Pioneer-
ing Yiddish novelists on American soil who wrestled with the
subject matter of slums and sweatshops included Leon Kobrin
(1873-1946), Z. Libin (1872-1955), Tashrak (1872-1926), and
Abraham Cahan (1860-1951), editor of the most popular Yiddish
daily
Forverts.
Isaac Raboy (1883-1944) was the first significant
Yiddish novelist to extend his gaze to the prairies and vast
farms of America in his novel about the Jewish Cowboy. Raboy
was an adherent of the literary movement known as
D i Yunge,
as was David Ignatoff (1885-1954), the novelist who is generally
credited with being its founder. American novelists of distinc-
tion who enriched Yiddish literature between the two world
wars included Baruch Glassman (1893-1945), S. Miller (1895־
1958) and L. Shapiro (1878-1948). Isaac Bashevis, the younger
brother of I. J. Singer, has been acclaimed by some critics as the
best Yiddish novelist now living in America. Yet his
Family
Mushkat,
which established his fame, is a saga of Polish Jewry.
The Yiddish writers who survived the European holocaust
created a rich literature of memoirs or voiced their pain in
heart-rending lyrics. In fiction, however, they continued to write
nostalgically of the world that was. The most gifted was I. I.
Trunk (1887-1961) who in a series of novels written on Amer-
ican soil unfolded a rich panorama of Polish Jewry, especially
the Hassidic sector. Perhaps the horror of the Jewish tragedy
was still too recent and too nightmarish to be captured in epic
form by those who experienced it. Rachmiel Bryks, who lived
through the Lodz Ghetto and the Auschwitz extermination camp,
attempted to do so in stories of grim humor, but captured
only a fragment of that life which Katzetnik characterized as
an existence on an extraterrestrial sphere.