Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
escapist novels. T h e r e were also a host o f m inor poets, on ly a few
o f whom saw their poetry published in book form .
T h e strong g rip o f “ proletarianism” on Yidd ish literary expres­
sion was loosened only at the turn o f the century. Poets like Morris
Rosenfeld, Abraham Liessin and A .M . Sharkanski did not con­
fine themselves to socialist motifs alone. T h e y wrote on a variety
o f topics, and even allowed their Jewish national feelings to carry
them away. Th is retreat from “ proletarianism” was also notice­
able in fiction. T o this group o f writers belonged Leon Kobrin , Z.
Libin, B. Gorin, and the popular dramatist Jacob Gord in.
P O P U L A R W R IT IN G S
In the early 1890’s there em erged a new gen re o f Y idd ish
literature, the novel o f entertainment. Energetic publishers
began to issue long novels in numerous installments that sold fo r a
few pennies. A lexand e r Harkavy listed 65 such novels published
up to 1898.2 Stories like “ T h e Mysteries o f the Russian Cou rt,”
“ T h e Gold Miners o f Californ ia,” “ T h e Black Gang or N ew Y o rk
by Day and by N igh t ,” or “ T h e Unsavory Woman ,” were unusu­
ally popular and sold at every newsstand on the East Side. T h e
taste o f the read ing public began to change fo r the better on ly at
the turn o f the century. It was then that the demand fo r literature
o f a higher caliber made itself felt.
T h e imm igrant community did not consist o f radicals alone,
although their voice was the most heard and preserved fo r post­
erity. T h e non-proletarian segment o f the community possessed
its press and its writers who expressed its attitudes and views. T o
this group belong the story-tellers I.S. Zevin (Tashrak ), Z. Levin,
N. Shmuelson, the poet Elyakum Zunser, Abraham Go ld faden ,
and some others whose writings were never published in book
form . These writers were Jewish in spirit, moderate in tem pera­
ment, and at times appreciative o f the freedom Am erica gave
them. Zionism had by now already gained some fo llow in g and it
found expression in the poetry o f Zunser, Sharkansky, Morris
Rosenfeld and Yehoash.
T h e Kishinev pog rom o f 1903 brought a new tide o f imm i­
grants. Th is new exodus was much more representative and
2 See Chap. 4 o f Eliyahu Schulman’s
Geshichtefu n der Yidisher literatur in Amerika,
N .Y ., 1943.