Page 125 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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GOLDSMITH / SHOLEM ASCH
117
been serialized on both sides of the Atlantic at a time when
Yiddish newspapers and magazines had achieved their widest
circulation. His plays had been produced on the stages of War­
saw, Moscow, Paris, Berlin, London and New York. Excerpts
from his writings were included in every Hebrew and Yiddish
text-book and literary anthology. His books had become part of
the ritual decor of the Jewish home.
VARIED WORKS
Asch’s enormous literary output of short stories, novels and
dramas may be divided into: 1)
shtetl
tales, 2) historical tales, 3)
biblical tales, 4) American tales, 5) Eretz Yisrael tales, and 6)
Holocaust tales. Asch was primarily a storyteller whose best work
was in the novel. But many of his shorter pieces and several of his
plays continue to intrigue the reader as well. There is a sincere
lyricism and delicate humor in many of Asch’s less successful
pieces that render them attractive even when they are less than
satisfying. Moreover, it is hard to remain indifferent to the
dynamic movement, breathtaking landscapes and bold eroticism
of Asch’s writing.
O f the
shtetl
works the most important are
Dos Shtetl
(The
Little-Town), a lyrical prose poem that shattered the Yiddish-
Hebrew tradition of castigating the
shtetl
as backward and benigh­
ted;
Reb Shloyme Nogid
(Wealthy Reb Shloyme), a romantic depic­
tion of
shtetl
life in which character is more sharply delineated;
Der
Farborgener Bokher
(The Boy-Saint), a vignette of hasidic life; and
Mottke Ganef
(Mottke the Thief), a novel of the Jewish under­
world.
In the category of historical tales the most satisfying works are
Kiddush Hashem
(The Sanctification of the Name), a novella deal­
ing with the Chmelnicki uprising in the Ukraine and the mas-
sacresof thejews which attended itin 1648-49;
DiKishef-Makherin
Fun Kastilyen
(The Witch of Castile), a novella about the persecu­
tion of Jews in the medieval Roman ghetto;
Der Tilim-Yid
(Salva­
tion), a magnificent novel depicting hasidic piety and faith in the
eighteenth century;
Dray Shtet
(Three Cities), an epic trilogy deal­
ing with the Russian Revolution and the role the Jews of Russia
and Poland played in it;
dLn&Baym
Opgrunt
(The War Goes On), a
novel set in Germany during the rise of Nazism.
At the First Yiddish Language Conference in Czernowitz,