Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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Z oh n
—A. A.
R o b a ck
59
most famous psychological laboratory in America—at Harvard,
under Hugo Miinsterberg.”
Roback’s lifelong love affair with
mameh loshn
was based on
the conviction that Yiddish was “ the most enduring medium of
expression which the Jewish people, i.e., the masses, have had
. . . it contains nearly all the elements of other languages which
the Jews have employed.” Roback tempered love with scholar­
ship and strove to establish order in Yiddish orthography and
transliteration, including diacritical marks and foreign accents,
in addition to coining or suggesting numerous locutions.
Con­
temporary Yiddish Literature,
a pamphlet published in London
in 1957 in severely truncated form, is but one of many pam­
phlets on Yiddish and Yiddish letters. Dedicated to the memory
of martyred Yiddish writers and actors in the USSR, it was
intended as a sequel to
The Story
and
Curiosities. Di Imperye
Yidish,
published in Mexico, was Roback’s first full-length book
in Yiddish. It is a glowing reflection of his abundant faith in
the viability and relevance of what many have regarded as a
moribund jargon. Roback’s own Yiddish was a vibrant, har­
monious blend of scientific, literary, and colloquial language.
The recently published work
Der Folksgaist in der Yidisher
Shprakh
(The Genius of the Yiddish Language), issued in Paris,
contains an elaborate critique of the
Yiddish Algemeyne Entsi-
klopedie
as well as the first survey of types of Yiddish expression,
from the Anglicized, Slavicized, and Latin-American kind to
rabbinical, scholarly, and YIVO Yiddish. A lifetime of study,
experience, and innovation is contained in this work.
Roback was a regular contributor to the international Yiddish
press and to reference works. A man with a lively journalistic
bent, he was an ever-vigilant watchdog, pointing out such things
as the absence of a line of Yiddish fiction from Van Doren’s
standard 1400-page anthology of world literature and the meager
representation o f Yiddish verse in the same compiler’s anthology
of world poetry. In 1939 Roback published
The Golden Peacock,
the first comprehensive collection of Yiddish poetry in English.
It was edited by Joseph Leftwich, but Roback must be regarded
as the father of the idea and the guiding spirit of the project.
An ancillary activity and a true labor of love was A. A. Roback’s
building of the Yiddish collection at Harvard’s Widener Library
to its present holdings of over
10,000
items, many of them quite
rare.
A One-Man Publishing Firm
It is not generally known that the prolific author and lecturer
was also a one-man publishing firm. Founded in the 1920s to