Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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modern world. Poetry is flourishing as never before since the
Golden Age of Spanish Jewry — a lyrical outpouring which,
though yearning for the stars, is deeply rooted in the earth. Pick
up any volume, and you will find the hopes, wrestlings, frustra-
tions, and visions of the regenerated Jewish spirit mirrored and
interpreted in its pages.
Unfortunately, for the English-speaking world the vast re-
sources of modern Hebrew creativity still remain virtually unavail-
able and unknown. Indeed, we could mention offhand a dozen
significant Hebrew authors, none of whose writings has as yet been
reproduced into English. This, of course, is a depressing com-
mentary on the spiritual status of American Jewry, upon whom
the privilege and duty of utilizing this treasury, and transmitting
it to the countless multitudes, in English translation, largely
devolves. Now, with the establishment of the state of Israel, has
our obligation in this direction become even greater, for the spirit-
ual creativity of the new state provides a wondrous spectacle.
Ours, then, is the responsibility to reproduce and interpret this
vast spiritual energy for the enlightenment of the American Jewish
community and the entire English-speaking world. Through this
process, we will establish the channel through which Israel’s
artistic, religious, and social achievements may enrich American
minds and hearts, Jews as well as non-Jews.
Steps in this direction have already been initiated, and it is to
be hoped that a concrete program for the translation, publication,
and dissemination of Hebrew literature will be launched in the
near future. We will proceed, then, with an enumeration, survey,
and analysis of those English translations now available, even
though the record, by comparison with the sum total of modern
Hebrew literature, is nugatory.
Poetry is one of the richest branches of modern Hebrew letters.
The most celebrated name in this field, of course, is that of Hayyim
Nahman Bialik (1873-1934), who reflected in his verse the struggle
of a people enslaved, as well as its awakening to new life. So
completely was he the incarnation of the Hebrew literary revival,
that his poems have been likened by one critic to the sun itself,
breaking through the blackness of a clouded sky. Not since Judah
Halevi has there been any such master of the Hebrew spirit or
interpreter of the Jewish soul. Now, for the first time, there is
available in English a large volume of his poetry, with other
volumes scheduled to follow,
The Complete Poetic Works of Hayyim
Nahman Bialik
, edited with an introduction by Israel Efros