Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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8 8
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
presented Bialik’s Hebrew translation of the drama. This pro­
duction still remains one of the classics in the repertory of the
Habimah,
produced exactly as Vakhtangov conceived it, with
some of the original settings as part of the presentation. When
the troupe performed in New York City in 1926, one of the
most outstanding American theatre critics, Stark Young, wrote
in
The New Republic
that the
Habimah
production of
Th e
Dybbuk
was “a perfect unity of idea, plot, and every other medi­
um of theatrical expression.”
An-sky’s masterpiece has been translated and performed in
almost every foreign tongue. No matter in what language the
play is produced, audiences immediately grasp its profound ap­
peal. This folk-tale, couched in the mysticism of Hassidic life
and thought, is a culmination of all of An-sky’s intellectual and
emotional delving into Jewish folklore. It is no mere collection
of tales and superstitions held together by a plot. Its attraction
lies in the carefully worked union of the natural and the super­
natural to such an extent that audiences find themselves believ­
ing what they would normally disbelieve. In a very real sense,
The Dybbuk
approaches the spirit of Elizabethan tragedy. Dis­
belief and cynicism of what lies beyond the five senses is sus­
pended, making it possible for audiences to enter into the limit­
less world of An-sky’s spiritual configuration.
As a dramatist, An-sky left us nothing that compares to
The
Dybbuk.
Extant are a couple of early one-act comedies and a
two-act comedy. The only other play that approaches
The Dyb­
buk
in style is
Day and Night,
which was never completed. An
adaptation by Alter Katzizne was performed by the Vilna
Troupe in 1921. Another version by Mendl Elkin and David
Pinsky was performed in New York in 1924. These plays, to­
gether with all of An-sky’s writings, were published in Yiddish
immediately after his death. The 15 volumes represent the
primary source for works by An-sky. Only his play
T h e Dybbuk
is available in English translation. The balance of his writing
remains to be discovered by non-Yiddishists. When seen all
together, An-sky’s writings amount to a notable monument. For
a man who had exiled himself from his Jewish heritage, he
made more than the usual contribution to his people. The
writings of his later years are akin to works of penance. They
are a testimony to the fact that although he escaped intellectually
from the traditions of his forefathers, he never ceased his emo­
tional involvement as a Jew.