Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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54
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
o f the reminiscences are abou t the war and were written by
participants — generals, colonels, and privates. T h e re have also
been memoirs about the cu ltural and literary life in pre-World
War I in Russia and Poland and about the Yiddish theatres. T h e re
are many recollections abou t the martyred Yiddish writers —
those executed du r ing the various purges, and especially those
who were m u rdered in August 1952. No mention however, is
made o f the fact tha t they were m u rd e red by Stalin.
Reportage is an extremely popu la r genre; a recen t issue (no.
12, 1978) was totally devoted to it. T he participants in this issue
describe the ir visits to various sections o f the coun try and the ir
encoun ters with d iffe ren t personalities. One au tho r writes o f a
visit to Volozhin, the seat of the famous yeshivah; he describes his
visit to the restau ran t now located in the building formerly occu­
pied by the house o f learning. T h e au tho r, Hirsch Reles, strikes
up a conversation with a bearded Jew who tells him that, “T he
walls o f this res tau ran t hea rd the voices o f Bialik and o the r
Yiddish writers.” T he au tho r was advised to visit Bialik Hill, o r as
the Byelorussians call it,
Bialikova Hora.
Reles was told by a young
man tha t Bialik wrote his first poem “El H a-T sipo r” on this hill.
From the conversations we learn tha t all the Volozhin Jews were
herded into the synagogues and burned alive by the Germans.
T h e re are now some twenty Jewish families in Volozhin and
“some are m ixed.” Mikole, a Byelorussian, jo ins the few Jews. He
speaks Yiddish and sings the well-known folk song, “We were ten
b ro thers .”
Sovetish Heimland
is primarily a literary jou rna l . T he bulk o f its
space is devoted to the publishing o f novels, stories, poetry, lit­
erary criticism, and repo rtage which combines factual inform a­
tion with personal in terp re ta tion . Much o f the work which ap ­
pears is competent, sometimes factual to the po in t o f pho to ­
graphic represen tation , and from time to time o f surprisingly
high literary value. Some o f the writing displays talent, mastery o f
form, a genuine expression o f Jewish life, and an authen tic ap ­
preciation o f Jewish values. Writers now describe Jewish life o f
the pre-Revolutionary period with more sympathy and u n d e r ­
standing than the ir colleagues o f the thirties who blasphemed
Jewish values and deprecated the Jewish experience. T h e re are,
o f course, exceptions, chief among them the ed ito r himself who
has published a trashy pot-boiler whose vulgarity and falseness
are shocking.