Page 70 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
writer in Yiddish. Even the complaint leveled against Bashevi
with considerable basis, that he misrepresents Jewish life, sens
tionalizes it, over-sexes it, is paralleled elsewhere. I have befor
me a report of the Prime Minister of Eire, Mr. Lemass, criticizin
Irish playwrights who have staged successes in London depictin
the Irish in a particular light. “ There are Irish playwrights an
novelists who seem to think that the surest way to extract royaltie
from British publishers is to depict the Irish not as they reall
are but as the British public have been led to imagine them.
Yeats thought they did not invent, “What they did was not wholl
false; they merely magnified a type into the whole nation, an
created the stage Irishman.”
Let me take out of the flood of “ bitter denunciation” of Bashevi
that has inundated the Yiddish press one of several articles by
distinguished Yiddish writer, Leib Feinberg, who held the respo
sible post of President of the Yiddish Centre in International PEN
“When we acquaint ourselves with Bashevis’s works we see th
something has happened, intentionally or unintentionally, th
is a total falsification and mutilation of the Jewish human ind
vidual and of the whole Jewish way of life in the shtetls, the Jewis
towns and townships of Poland. He depicts the devilish in ma
transforms entire Jewish places of settlement into bawdy house
T o show how harmful Bashevis’s stories and novels have been i
their effect on American youth, on all who read him in Englis
translation, I will give one example. A Jewish girl, my daughter
friend, said to me: ‘ f have been reading Bashevis Singer’s
and I am completely bewildered. In the Yiddish scho
we were taught Peretz and Sholem Aleichem, and we got th
impression from their work that the life in the Jewish towns an
townships of the old country was full of the ecstasy of being, an
the holiness of poverty. And here is Bashevis Singer showing
the life in these same towns and townships as though it was a
one big brothel. Tell me, who has falsified and mutilated the tru
face of the Jewish township and the Jewish human individua
Peretz and Sholem Aleichem or Bashevis Singer?’ ”
On Complaints about Write
What has Bashevis himself to say about it? In an “ Intervie
with Isaac Bashevis” published in the Yiddish
Daily Forwar
where he is a regular contributor, he was asked: “What is yo
answer to those Yiddish writers who have complained that i
your stories that have appeared in Yiddish and have been tran
lated into English you show Jewish life in a distorting mirror
“There is no writer in world literature,” Bashevis answere
“ against whom there were no complaints. When Dostoevs
Crime and Punishment
The Brothers Karamazov