Page 132 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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LEONARD PRAGER
Sholem-Aleykhem’s
First Feuilleton Series
A
l i t t l e
o v e r
a century ago, in 1883, the twenty-four year old
Sholem Rabinovitsh started his career as a Yiddish writer and
took the pseudonym
Sholem-Aleykhem.
Later transformed into a
great deal more than a pseudonym, the name
Sholem-Aleykhem
both contributed to and became identified with the author’s
achievement. The first work of Rabinovitsh’s to be signed
Sholem-
Aleykhem,
the feuilleton “Di vibores” (The Elections), was a typical
maskilic sketch of shtetl society1. The town of Finsternish (Dark­
ness) is having elections for the post of crown rabbi, for such a
post, that is, as Sholem Rabinovitsh actually filled in the town of
Lubny from the beginning of 1881 until August 1883. In Lubny,
too, there would be a new crown rabbi for the High Holidays of
1883.
Finsternish
is a protective as well as a satirical toponym for
Lubny.
Sholem-Aleykhem
at this time is a protective pseudonym for
Sholem Rabinovitsh and not much more.
“The Elections” is a continuation of Rabinovitsh’s earlier
Hebrew essays on education. The series of epistolary feuilletons
entitled
Di ibergekhapte briv a f der post
(henceforth:
The Intercepted
Letters)
is a further development of the “The Elections,” with
which it is linked in a number of ways. Rabinovitsh never
reprinted these early feuilletons, published during 1883-1884,
even though it was his habit to revise, polish, rewrite and attempt
to sell whatever he could. Thanks to the first volume of the 1948
Soviet edition of Sholem-Aleykhem’s works, we have access to
these early efforts, the suppressed ninth letter excepted.
1 First printed in
Yidishesfolksblat,
no. 38 (1883), 583-584; reprinted in Sholem-
Aleykhem.
Ale verk,
Vol. 1, Moscow: OGIZ/Melukhe-farlag “Der ernes,” 1948,
pp. 50-53 (+
Ale verk,
1948, Vol. 1).
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