Page 126 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Bukovina, in 1908, Asch advocated the translation of the Hebrew
Bible into modern Yiddish (a project definitively realized in 1925
by the Yiddish poet Yehoash). Asch translated the Book of Ruth
into Yiddish himself, rewrote biblical tales and legends for young­
sters and eventually published five biblical novels. O f the latter
the most important are
Der Man fu n Natseres
(The Nazarene);
Moyshe
(Moses); and
Der Novi
(The Prophet). At the time of his
death, Asch was working on a novel based on the lives of Abraham
and Sarah, and of Jacob and Rachel (several chapters were pub­
lished in the Israeli Yiddish literary quarterly,
Di Goldene Keyt.)
AMERICAN THEMES
Asch accompanied his
shtetl
Jews on their trek to the new world
and was a close observer of America and the American Jewish
scene for almost half a century. The best works in this category
are the three novels:
Uncle Moses,
on the struggle in the sweat­
shops,
East R iver ,
about the Jewish-Christian encounter in
America, and
Grossman un Zun
(A Passage in the Night), about the
quest for faith in a materialistic age.
Asch wrote several short stories about the Land of Israel and
the novella
Dos Gezang Fun Tol
(Song of the Valley), which deals
with the struggle of the pioneers of Ein Harod to reclaim the
Valley of Jezreel. In
Der Brenendiker Dorn
(The Burning Bush), a
volume of short stories on the Holocaust, he left a moving memo­
rial to the six-million.
From the very beginning, with the appearance of his little
masterpiece
Dos Shtetl
in 1904, Jewish readers saw in Asch the
writer best able to capture the essence of Jewish life and the
yearnings of the Jewish heart for freedom and dignity. Asch was
the idealistic representative of the Jewish spirit to Jews and to the
world at large at a time when traditional Eastern European Jewish
culture was undergoing radical transformation and new forms of
Jewish life were emerging in Europe, Palestine and the Americas.
Asch had an exalted conception of his mission as a Jewish artist.
He sought to preserve the radiance of the Jewish past, which he
perceived essentially in ethical and spiritual terms, and to capture
Jewishness in transition in the immigrant ships, tenements and
sweatshops. As his talent matured and ripened, he ambitiously
broadened this conception to include the artistic depiction of the
Jewish people both on the soil of the Land of Israel and in the