Page 21 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

Basic HTML Version

L
iptzin
—Y
iddish
L
iterature
in
R
umania
15
tiveness in classrooms when he taught in Lipcani, Fao de Janeiro
and Cernauti.
Steinbarg preferred the dialogue form. His characters are in­
animate objects more often than animals or plants. To all of them
he assigns human traits, and has them engage in disputes as to
proper behavior. Each object experiences far more suffering
than joy; through each the author emphasizes the tragedy and the
injustice inherent in the world structure.
Steinbarg is pessimistic yet compassionate. He holds that heaven
may perhaps punish sinners but that earth certainly punishes the
virtuous. He illustrates this conclusion in the fable of the good-
natured piece of soap which cleanses and purifies, but is penalized
for this virtue by becoming ever thinner and nearer to dissolution.
His fable of the knife and the saw points out that on this imperfect
planet the knife is blessed, strutting about as a glistening aristocrat
because its function is to cut living throats, while the saw is looked
upon as an ugly plebeian because it busies itself with the menial
task of sawing dull, wooden blocks.
Steinbarg, opposing docile submission to the dominant order
which he regards as evil, advocates resistance to it under all cir­
cumstances. He illustrates this view by means of the fable of the
cow that appears before heaven’s judgment seat as complainant
against the butcher Shlome Zalman, murderer of the cow and its
offspring, the young innocent calves. The court’s decision is in
favor of the defendant. A cow that has horns, teeth, hoofs, and
yet lets itself be milked dry and slaughtered, deserves, more than
Shlomo Zalman the butcher, to be sent to Gehenna because, by
not resisting, it tempted this servant of God to apply the knife to
its throat.
Steinbarg makes use of all the riches of Yiddish, the spoken
idioms as well as the written word. He borrows phrases from the
Hebrew prayer book and the Talmud and adapts them in star­
tling, original combinations. Nor does he hesitate to invent a
multitude of neologisms whose meaning evolves from their strange
sound effects. He ranks with Itzik Manger as Rumania’s greatest
master of Yiddish.
Jacob Sternberg, who edited Steinbarg’s fables, began in 1908
with lyrics and short stories that immediately won recognition.
Towards the end of World War I he wrote and produced, in col­
laboration with Jacob Botoshansky, nine playlets and satiric re­
vues for the Bucarest Yiddish Theater. During the following two
decades he forged ahead as the most popular theater director. His
lyrics gradually eschewed neoromantic, symbolistic characteristics
and evolved into the grotesque expressionism of his volume Pro­
file of a City (Shtot in Profil, 1935). Fleeing from the Nazis in