Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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B A S HE V I S S I NGER IN Y I D D I S H
L I T E R A T U R E
By
J
o s e p h
L
e f t w ic h
H
a z l it t
argues that “ The four greatest names in English poe
are almost the four first we come to —Chaucer, Spenser, Sh
speare and Milton. There are no others that can really be
competition with these.” In the same way we could say that
greatest names in modern Yiddish literature are the three f
we come to —Mendele, Peretz, Sholem Aleichem. I would
Sholem Asch, the most important of Peretz's disciples. I wo
continue with Bergelson, Opatoshu, Shneour, Markish, Leiv
and several others including Manger, Glatstein, Mendel Ma
and Bashevis Singer’s brother I. J. Singer. I would incl
Bashevis, of course. So would most of his Yiddish critics. T
Shlomo Rosenberg in an article which is an onslaught
Bashevis. When he enumerates the Yiddish writers of today
count, he lists them: “ Together with Mendele, Peretz, Shol
Aleichem, Sholem Asch, Weissenberg, Isaac Bashevis, B. Demb
Mendel Mann, Leivick, Mani Leib, M. L. Halpern, Almi
scores of others. All of them together make up a Yiddish lit
ture of which we have no reason to feel ashamed in die eyes
the world.”
Only Bashevis stands out because, as one American Jew
writer put it recently, “He has taken the American literary sc
by storm and is idolized by the intelligentsia, but is not accep
by the Jewish Establishment.” Perhaps that rules me out, a
critic committed to the ideas upheld by the Jewish Establishm
But I have never gone to the length of those of the Jewish Es
lishment who have, in the words of the same writer, made Bash
Singer “ the target of bitter denunciation.” I think very hig
of his narrative power. I admire some of his work. I know m
of it. I read his
Satan in Goray
when it first appeared as a se
in the Warsaw Yiddish literary magazine
Globus
in 1933, thi
six years ago, under the name he used then, Isaac Bashevis,
which Yiddish literature still knows him. He has now tacked
the surname he had previously dropped, because it was identif
with his brother I. J. Singer who wrote
Yoshe Kalb, The Broth
Ashkenazi, Comrade Nachman, Savinkov, Shabbatai Zevi
other works. I. J. Singer died in New York in 1944. We h
had in Yiddish literature other instances of name changing
the same reason: the brothers Vladek, Nigger and Tcharny,
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