Page 133 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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Fortunately, this unpublished letter, which is briefly discussed
below, has been preserved2.
In “The Elections,” the old crown rabbi is attacked as “dem
apikoyres, vos shraybt af gazetn” (the heretic who writes for the
papers)3. In
The Intercepted Letters,
the nascent Sholem-Aleykhem
persona is a zany, rascally newspaper columnist who is here, there
and everywhere while remaining a mystery. The true tutelary
spirit of the series, however, is less the persona of Sholem-
Aleykhem that it is
(newspapers). Sholem-Aleykhem’s writ­
ing career, like the course of modern Yiddish literature gener­
ally, was to be closely linked to the Yiddish press. It is the
awareness of the relatively new or at least still undeveloped insti­
tution of
in Yiddish which lends a measure of unity to the
diffuse structure of
The Intercepted Letters.
In these letters we see
the mind of the newspaperman planning ever wider coverage of
news, ever greater variety of content. One of the important char­
acters in the series, Reb Leybele, in his last letter writes: “Undzer
perepiske vert ale mol mer farbreytert un fargresert. . .” (Our
correspondence is constantly broadening and growing. . .)4.
Widening of reportorial scope is the dynamism of the series;
Sholem-Aleykhem’s function is a limited one: he steals from the
post office and publishes the correspondence between Reb
Leybele “fun yener velt” (from the next world) and Reb Velvele
of Finsternish (which was also the locale of “The Elections”).
Thus, at the beginning of the fourth letter, Reb Velvele writes:
“Shtel dir for, vi farvundert bin ikh geven, az undzere forike
tsvey briv hot emetser ibergekhapt af der post, un zey zenen vort
ba vort opgedrukt ba dem apikoyres Tsederboym in zayn gazet
epes durkh a shlimazl, vos heyst “Sholem-Aleykhem.”
(Imagine how surprised I was to see that someone had inter­
cepted our last two letters at the post office and printed them
word for word in that heretic Tsederboym’s paper, the
It was probably that miserable creature, Sholem-Aleykhem.)5
Sholem-Aleykhem also enters the lives of the various characters,
2 A part o f this suppressed letter is discussed in “A fragment fun a nit-gedruktn
Ibergekhapte briv," Dos Sholem-Aleykhem bukh,
New York, 1926, pp. 324-325. For
a romanized transcription and translation of the entire ninth letter see
Language Review
4 (1984).
Ale verk,
1948, Vol. 1, p. 52.
4 Idem, p. 119.
5 Idem, pp. 68-69.