Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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S
hapiro
— Y
iddish
B
ooks
in
the
S
oviet
U
nion
7
small Soviet peoples, including some whose languages had only
recently been adapted for literary use. However, this ingenious
integration theory was also expounded by Aron Vergelis, editor
of the only Yiddish magazine in the Soviet Union,
Sovetish
Heymland.
Again and again Vergelis, who is in a sense the only
official “spokesman” of Russian Jews, pointed ou t tha t Russian
Jewry does no t need “what is called cultural autonomy. . . .
T h e Jews [in the Soviet Union] have less of a yearning for
Jewish culture than they did in the 20’s and 30’s, and there­
fore one simply cannot artificially expand, w ithout rhyme or
reason, the scope of cultural work done in Yiddish
.” 3
In con­
nection with the integration theory, lately so dear to Soviet
propagandists, it is noteworthy tha t since the tragic death of
Isaac Babel (supposedly in 1940), Russia has no t produced a
single authentic writer whose work would fall in the category
of Russian-Jewish literature. In this sense, Babel’s
Odessa Stories,
Benia Krik, Horse A rm y ,
and his play
Sunset,
represented the
last example of the genre at its best. Babel was the last, and
probably the best, of the known constellation of Jewish writers
in Russia, among whom were Semion Yushkevich, Osip Dymov,
David Aizman, Andrei Sobel, Poliakov-Litovtsev, the poet Semion
Frug, and many others. T h e Jewish content of some of their
writings did no t interfere w ith their becoming an organic pa r t
of Russian literary creation.
After Stalin’s death there appeared in Russia many memoirs
tha t included material of Jewish interest. Some were clearly
written purposely as a sort of rebuke to prevailing anti-Semitic
attitudes, like Ehrenburg’s
Years, M en , and Life.
In 1965 Abram
Argo published
W ith My Own Eyes,
in which he wrote, among
o ther things, about the Habima Theater, its b irth , and its
departure for abroad. In any event, this type of memoiristic
literature had little impact on and only peripheral connection
with Jewish creative efforts. There is no need to go in to fu rthe r
detail: the fact is tha t the great Jewish cultural complex destroyed
by Stalin was not reestablished under Khrushchev, who ind i­
cated little sympathy with Jewish endeavors. I t is against this
background that the position of Yiddish literature in the Soviet
Union during the last decade or so must be viewed.
Yiddish Books and Translated Books
In 1945, despite the unfavorable political climate tha t existed
after the war, fourteen Yiddish books appeared in the Soviet
Union. T he number grew to nineteen in 1946, fifty-two in 1947,
8
Sovetish Heymland,
Moscow, #5, 1960. A reply to Bertrand Russell.