Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

Basic HTML Version

literature: only the breakup of the religiously centered, circum­
scribed shtetl world made possible the emergence of a secular
literature whose major subject was the shtetl. The breakup of
the nineteenth century shtetl world and its culture was the
precondition for the possibility of modern Yiddish—and He­
brew—literature. The Russo-Turkish War was merely the cata­
lyst that made possible the success of Goldfaden; the conditions
were favorable for the emergence of a modern Yiddish theater,
even as they had been only a dozen years earlier for the “formal
emergence” of modern Yiddish literature with the publication of
Dos Kleyne Mentshele
(in English titled
The Parasite).
The recency of the Prilutsky-Shipper controversy underscores
how late in the day Yiddish theater and drama research ap­
peared on the scene, given the late date of the appearance of
Yiddish theater and, indeed, of modern secular Yiddish culture
and scholarship as a whole. Not unitl the 1920’s did systematic
scholarship into Yiddish theater history really begin to appear.9
In addition to Shipper’s research, there were such works as B.
Di Geshikhte fun Yidishn Teater,
2 vols., 1918, second
enlarged edition, 1923; the treasure trove edited by Jacob Shatsky,
Arkhiv far Geshikhte fun Yidishn Teater un Drame,
vol. I,
Vilna, 1930 (the only volume published); and the works of
such scholars as Max Weinreich, Max Eric, Israel Zinberg,
among others. The most impressive and useful (though some­
times inaccurate) compendium is the
Leksikon fun Yidishn
volumes I (1931) and II (1934), edited by Zalmen
Zylbercweig and Jacob Mestel; volumes III (1959), IV (1963),
V (1967), and VI (1969), by Zylbercweig alone.
In addition to the disputes already described, other contro­
versies beset and often raged around the Yiddish theater. In his
own day, Goldfaden was hardly the venerated father he has
since become. From the very inception of his theater, voices of
protest were heard, offended by its low level. The Jewish mil­
lionaire Brodsky was so outraged—probably as much by its Jewish­
9 An informative survey of the scholarship is to be found in Y. Hirshhoyt,
“Di Historiker funem Yidishn Teater,”
Yidish Teater in Eyrope: Soveln
Farband, Mayrev Eyrope, Baltishe Lender,
N.Y., Alveltlekher Yidisher
Kultur Kongress, 1971.