Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
ziben Betler
(Wilna, 1932). (This 80 page introduction was re-
published in Niger’s
Bleter tsu der Geshikhte fun der Yidisher
New York, 1959.) Niger admires the sheer creativity of
the tales but prefers to play down their symbolical character. The
controversy about the originality of the Yiddish version as well as
a later controversy in Israel is discussed by Elias Shulman in
1966, pp. 27-31.
In his monumental
Geshikhte fun der literatur bay Yidn,
Zinberg tries to give a balanced view of Nahman’s ideas and images,
, part 2, pp. 168-202). He characterizes Nahman as a mystic
with a poetic soul, but adds that one has to dig through sand and
rubbish to find a spark or pearl. Meir Wiener, the Marxist literary
critic, in his
Tsu der geshikhte fun der Yidisher literatur
1945, vol. 1, pp. 33-38), finds that the tales romanticize
medieval concepts, but admits their poetic substance and their
subtle psychological delineations.
David Ignatoff, enchanted by the tales of Rabbi Nahman, uses
them for the weaving of his
Dos Farborgene L ikh t
(New York,
1919). Jacob Glatstein has a series of poems portraying Nahman
“dictating to his scribe Nathan”
(Fun mayn gantzer mi,
New York,
1956, pp. 160-190).
Yudel Mark in his essay on Yiddish literature (in Louis Finkel-
stein, ed.,
The Jews,
New York, 1960, vol. 2, pp. 1201-1202)
acclaims Nahman as one of the greatest Jewish narrators of all
. . the winged scope, the delicate form and the ethical
mystical ideas . . . completely original.”
The one unreconstructed voice was that of Simon Dubnow, the
historian of hasidism. In his
T o ldo t ha-Hasidut
(Tel-Aviv, 1930,
vol. 2, p. 307) he dismisses the tales as uncontrolled phantasy—
“the product of a man sick in body and in mind”—and asserts that
“in vain have recent scholars tried to discover a scrap of an idea
in this heap of nonsense.”
In Israel, Eliezer Steinman edited an anthology
K itv e R abb i
(Tel Aviv, 1951) “modernizing” Nahman’s language. An
“orthodox” viewpoint is presented by Isaac Alfasi in his
R abb i
Nahman mi-Bratzlav: Hayav u-Mahshavto
(Tel Aviv, 1952).
General surveys of hasidism such as Jacob Minkin’s
of Hasidism
(New York, 1935) and Harry Rabinowicz’s
World of
(London, 1970), have chapters on the Braslaver rabbi.
Jean de Menasce, professor at the Sorbonne, in his
Quand Israel
aime dieu
(Paris, 1931), considers Nahman’s tales “un des grands
chef-d’oeuvres poetiques de la pensee juive.” Arnold Mandel in
La Voie du Hasidisme
(Paris, 1963), has a sensitive chapter
on Rabbi Nahman as “poete maudit.” The book appeared also in
an Italian translation (Milano, 1965).