Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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S
h a p ir o
— Y
idd ish
B
ooks
in
t h e
S
ov iet
U
n io n
11
Yiddish careers probably stems from intellectual commitment.
One must, of course, assume tha t the environment and back­
ground of the practicing Yiddish writers have an im po rtan t
bearing on their work, and one wonders how much the changed
demographic and geographic structure of Soviet Jewry and the
creation of new Jewish centers in Asiatic Russia will affect the
creative endeavors of the coming generation.
T h e period under review is obviously too special and too
limited to lend itself to a systematic evaluation. Moreover, the
works published during this period m ight have been the result
of accidental choice or of the ready availability of material.
However, if one examines the works of some fifty contemporary
Soviet Yiddish poets (
Horizonten,
1965);
Azoi Lebn M ir,
a
volume of reportage; and the issues of
Sovetish Heym land
for
some five years back, one obtains a fair sample of Yiddish con­
temporary writing in the Soviet Union. While an overall literary
analysis must be left to future critics, some general comments,
w ithin the limits of the present survey, may be useful.
1. Much of contemporary Soviet Yiddish writing is mediocre.
Like most of the Soviet production in o ther languages, i t is
parochial, and like all the writing of the school of so-called
“socialist realism,” it is often boring. T h e persistent odes to
patriotic Soviet soldiers, to the kolkhozes, to factory heroics, fail
to arouse the enthusiasm of the Western reader. While Russian
literature, crippled by “socialist realism,” has nevertheless de­
veloped a score of highly talented rebels who have revolution­
ized Soviet writing, Yiddish contemporary literature has no t
produced a Pasternack, a Sinyavski, or a Daniel, who wrote
books published abroad and who could therefore express under­
ground ideas and experiment with stylistic forms unacceptable
in the Soviet Union. I t is significant, parenthetically, tha t all
three of these artists deal with questions of burn ing interest to
Jews, bu t of course, w ithin a framework of general import.
2. However accidental the choice of Yiddish books perm itted
to appear, it is significant tha t of the thirteen, four are classics
(Mendele, Sholem Aleichem, Peretz, and Bergelson), one is the
work of a writer of the 1920’s (Schwartzman, who perished in
the civil war), and only one is devoted to the Nazi holocaust.
Perhaps no t altogether accidental, the latter work by Masha
Rolnik was issued in cooperation with
Yiddish Bukh
of W ar­
saw. While the theme of the catastrophe was used by Soviet
Yiddish writers in poetry and prose, it had no t as yet achieved
the prominence attained in Yiddish writing in the West. Soviet
Yiddish writers approached the subject of the holocaust with
obvious caution lest they be accused of emphasizing national