Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

Basic HTML Version

JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
68
Goldberg, including David Pinski’s “Abigail” and “ Forgotten
Souls,” Sholem Aleykhem’s comedy “She Must Marry a Doctor,”
Sholem Asch’s “Winter” and “The Sinner,” and Peretz Hirshbein’s
“ In the Dark.” The collection, apparently, was cordially received,
for two years later it was followed by a second series, containing
David Pinski’s “Little Heroes” and “The Stranger,” Peretz
Hirshbein’s “On the Threshold,” Z. Levin’s “Poetry and Prose,”
and Leon Kobrin’s “The Black Sheep” and the “Secret of Life.”
Of the Yiddish dramatists, David Pinski was a favorite. In
1915 his
Treasure
appeared, in the translation of Ludwig Lewisohn.
The drama is a satire on the greed and hypocrisy of people and
at the same time suggests a possibility of spiritualizing man’s
materialistic urges. The hunted treasure, the core of the play,
proves to be an illusion, but temporarily it bestowed status
and a sense of freedom upon its putative possessors. In 1918,
appeared his
Three Plays
, containing “Isaac Sheftel,” “The Last
Jew” (in the original,
Di Familye Tsvi)
and “The Dumb Messiah,”
in the translation of Isaac Goldberg. The
Three Plays
represent
a heterogeneous collection. “ Isaac Sheftel” is a naturalistic drama
of a misunderstood and frustrated inventor who commits suicide
upon realizing his inability to translate his grandiose designs into
reality. The action is depicted against a background of poverty
and squalor, in a city in the Pale of Settlement, towards the turn
of the century. “The Last Jew” represents the impact of modern
ideology — nationalism, cosmopolitanism, assimilationism — upon
the traditional Jewish mode of life, heightened by the crisis of a
pogrom. The author portrays the decline of genuine Jewish
religiosity into formalism and hypocrisy, and when the hero of
the play in the end proclaims that “ the old order has departed,”
the reader has the feeling that this order died because of spiritual
debility. In “The Dumb Messiah,” we have a struggle between
idealism and opportunism, with the latter gaining the palm. Upon
the expulsion of the Jews from mythical Illyria, the hero inspires
the people with a vision of redemption and leads them on to the
Promised Land. But the revocation of the edict of expulsion
leads to a repudiation of the new ideal and a resolution to return
to the lands of exile. In despair, the hero leaps into the sea. In
1919 appeared Pinski’s collection of short stories,
Temptation
,
mainly about biblical and talmudic characters. The volume was
translated by Isaac Goldberg.
PROSE BY SHOLEM ASCH
The field of prose was headed in that decade by Sholem Asch
who made his debut in an English translation by Rufus Learsi
with
Kiddush Hashem
(1912), a story of love and heroism during