Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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A DECADE OF Y I DD I S H L I TERARY
CR I T I C I SM
h e
Yiddish literary world has recently marked the ten th
anniversary of the passing of Shmuel Niger. When he died
suddenly on the 24th of December, 1955, Yiddish literature lost
its most em inent master in the field of criticism. Th roughou t
50 years, 35 of them in the United States, Niger enriched Yiddish
creativity with books tha t are fundamental works in Yiddish
criticism as a special form of literary art, and milestones in the
history of its development.
Niger was at home in all eras of Yiddish literature, from its
beginnings in the Middle Ages, to the most recent books pub ­
lished wherever Yiddish is spoken and read. His critical opinions
were accepted by most Yiddish writers and by the majority of
discriminating readers.
T h e American period in Niger’s life began after he left
Europe in 1919. He was a very productive writer and editor. For
a short while in
T he Forward
and later for three and a half
decades in
The Day,
he wrote weekly reviews of recent Yiddish
books. He contributed to various publications lengthy mono­
graphs and studies about literary personalities and literary
currents in the history of Yiddish, and as an editor he helped
younger writers who were in need of encouragement and
guidance.
Niger was also rooted in Hebrew literature, and on occasion
he wrote in Hebrew for specific publications. From 1940 to the
time of his death Niger headed the Louis Lamed Foundation
for the Advancement of Hebrew and Yiddish Literature.
Yiddish criticism has always lagged behind the general progress
of modern Yiddish poetry, fiction and drama. But Niger’s stature
as a writer inspired younger men to devote their talents to literary
criticism, as it encouraged critics of his own generation. Thus
Niger’s literary activity contributed to the development of
Yiddish criticism. Several Yiddish poets for whom the form of
the critical essay serves as a medium of creative and intellectual
expression contributed to this progress in recent years. But
B
y
M
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