Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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S
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sidic life, much of which he used in his later writings. This
expedition served as the spiritual turning point in his life. It
was as if he had found what he had been looking for during
all his years of wandering.
An-sky was converted back to his former Jewish self. Except
for a brief period after the 1917 revolution, when he functioned
as Deputy at the first Constitutional Assembly, An-sky devoted
his energies and his talents to Jewish folklore. The outbreak of
World War 1 prevented him from further ethnographic expedi­
tions. Nevertheless, he plunged into relief work for Jewish war
victims, an experience that is recounted in his book,
War Victims
of Galitsye.
When the Bolshevists came into power An-sky fled
to Vilna, still occupied by the Germans. Tired and ill, he was
forced to flee again when the Russians occupied the city. It was
in Warsaw that the dying An-sky found his last haven. He died
there on November 8, 1920. His return to Jewish life was so
complete that even during his last remaining days, An-sky spent
what little energy he had in trying to establish a Jewish Ethno­
graphic Society in Poland.
“The Dybbuk”
An-sky9s Masterpiece
It was rather unfortunate that An-sky did not live to receive
the acclaim of his talents as a dramatist. Despite the interest
shown by various producers, he had not seen any of his works
performed. The play upon which much of his reputation lies
was
The Dybbuk,
originally published as
Between Two Worlds
in Vilna in 1919. First written in 1914, An-sky had shown the
original Russian version to Stanislavsky, who was interested in
producing the drama at the Moscow Art Theatre. Supposedly,
the Russian director suggested various changes, the most impor­
tant of which was the inclusion of the character known as The
Messenger. The suggestion was felicitous because The Messenger
serves to give the play an intellectual and dramatic unity, func­
tioning almost like a Greek chorus. Perhaps the most important
bit of advice given to An-sky was the need to rewrite the play
into Yiddish.
David Herman of the Vilna Troupe had indicated an interest
in the published Yiddish version of
The Dybbuk.
But it was
not until after An-sky died that the play was given a perform­
ance. Exactly one month after his death, the Vilna Troupe
performed
The Dybbuk
at Warsaw as a memorial tribute to the
late writer. Its success was immediate. Maurice Schwartz produc­
ed the same Yiddish version in New York City at the Yiddish
Art Theatre the following year. On January 31, 1922, the most
famous of the productions of
The Dybbuk
opened in Moscow;
the
Habimah
troupe, under the direction of Eugene Vakhtangov,