Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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o sh e
t a r k m a n
NTIL the beginning of the present war, New York was con-
sidered one of the greatest literary centers. The destruction
of Jewish life in Eastern Europe resulted in making New York
center of Jewish world literature, and in many of the works
which now appear in New York the present fateful and gruesome
period in world Jewish history finds its expression. The names
of authors of new books bear witness to the wanderings which
Jewish men of letters had to undergo in recent years before they
reached American shores.
Abundance in Jewish literary production does not necessarily
mean that there is an abundance of readers. The normal dis-
tribution of a Jewish book seldom exceeds 1,000-2,000 copies;
and hardly any books are published by commercial firms. Jewish
books which have on their title pages names of private publishers
are disseminated either entirely at the authors’ own expense, or
through the aid of committees which raise the funds for such
books — and sometimes hy means of a solicitor.
The average Jewish reader is used to his newspaper, and is
not intellectually mature enough to absorb the works which
are at present being produced in Yiddish. The more cultured
are satisfied with reading various journals, and attending literary
gatherings. I t is amongst the few thousand Jewish readers who
do buy Jewish books because of an intellectual urge, that Jewish
books are circulated. Many women, the majority of whom belong
to the “Yiddish Reading Circles,” may be counted among these
better readers. In these circles books are discussed, selections are
read and readings by guest writers are heard. Women readers’
circles are especially prevalent in the cities of the Middle West,
and amongst their members are to be found those who are the real
heirs of the old time Jewish patronesses.
*Translated by M. Z. Frank.