Page 142 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
his death in an auto-da-fe he becomes the embodiment o f the
national soul: the hated martyr o f a fanatic religion o f love.
“Manoah Franko” is the only poem by Silkiner with a Jewish
background in medieval Spain. A major fragment in spite o f its
length, it leads chronologically to another fragment — a minor
one — “Neighbors.” This solitary poem with an American back­
ground is characteristic of his entire output: One slender volume
of poems which reads like a remnant o f a vast poetical oeuvre.
The talents of Silkiner as translator have also not been tested in
voluminous production. Shakespeare was his love, Shakespeare
was to be the major confrontation of his translating ability. A
Hebrew version of the entire Shakespearean corpus in coopera­
tion with some Hebrew poets in America: that was his grand
vision. It did not materialize, although it had the enthusiastic
support — moral and possibly financial — of the most generous
maecenas of Hebrew literature in history: Abraham Joseph
Stybel who made and lost fortunes in Russia and in America.
The failure of Silkiner’s vision resulted from several causes —
some tangible, some intangible. The most tangible cause was the
lack of leisure on the part of Hebrew writers who devoted most of
their time to earn a meager living. Another tangible cause was the
lack of a firm contract between writers and publisher, a contract
which would have insured publication and leisure for publication.
An intangible cause was aided and abetted by writers’ preferences
of individual choices of plays and poems for their versions. And
so individual plays of Shakespeare by individual Hebrew writers
appeared in Poland and Tel Aviv: Lisitzky’s version of “The
Tempest,” Efros’ version of “Hamlet” and Simon Halkin’s version
of “King John” in Tel Aviv, Silkiner’s version of “Macbeth” in
Warsaw. A volume which assembled the Hebrew versions of
Shakespearean tragedies and included, among others, Silkiner’s
version of “Macbeth,” was published in Tel Aviv in 1959. It
demonstrated at a glance that all, with one exception, have been
done by Hebrew poets who lived or had lived in America. Still,
there is no Shakespearean corpus yet in Hebrew although four
Hebrew versions of “Hamlet” by Bornstein, Davidowitz, Efros
and Shlonsky, three Hebrew versions of “Antony and Cleopatra”
by Avinoam, Bavli, and Libes, two versions of the “Merchant of
Venice” by Halkin and Abraham Oz, and two versions of “Mac­
beth” by Tschernichowsky and Silkiner exist as monuments of