Prooftexts A Journal of Jewish Literary History

Published by Indiana University Press
Online ISSN: 1086-3311
Print ISSN: 0272-9601
In his chapter on inner-biblical exegesis in The Garments of Torah, Michael Fishbane says that his purpose is "to suggest some of the ways by which the foundation document of Judaism, the Hebrew Bible, not only sponsored a monumental culture of textual exegesis, but was itself its own first product." I believe that this assertion is indeed correct. In this article, I sharpen it in two ways: first, by pointing out the locus of the Bible's invention of itself, Deuteronomy 4; second, by pointing to the act of exegesis—a Deuteronomic midrash on the phrase from Exodus 20 that describes the Israelites as "seeing" the thunder—that provided the creative spark that transformed theological energy into textual matter and (ultimately) gave us the Bible.
287 ***FILENAME***0001.BBTRace, Literary History, and the ``Jewish'' Question M ICHAEL P. KRAMER Who would be rash enough to prophesy aught of a race whose entire past is a riddle, whose literature is a question-mark? Ð Gustav Karpeles¹ ``DEFINING THE SUBJECT UNDER STUDY'' What is Jewish literature? Nearly two centuries have passed sinceLeopold Zunz ®rst attempted to answer this constitutive question, launch-ing the Wissenschaft des Judentums with an ambitious planÐas his admirer, literary historian Gustav Karpeles wroteÐ``to survey the whole ®eld of Jewish literature, and lay down the lines of demarcation indicating its development.''² Less than a century after Zunz published the ®rst manifesto for Jewish literary history, the ®eld was in many ways already clearly mapped out: Karpeles had published his comprehensive History of Jewish Literature, the Jewish Publication Society had begun its task of popularly disseminating Jewish literature and literary studies (including several volumes by Karpeles), and the summa of Wissenschaft scholarship, the monumental Jewish Encyclopedia, had appeared.³ Yet despite these impressive achievements, the question (variously conceived and formulated, as I will show) persisted. The professionalization and institutionalization of the ®eld in the last century have done little, if anything, to decide the issue. Indeed, the further Jewish 288 ❙ Michael P. Kramer literary study has expanded and the more sophisticated it has grown, the more elusive a de®nitive answer to the question seems to have become. ``While the last two decades have witnessed a steady increase in Jewish studies programs and Jewish literature courses,'' Hana Wirth-Nesher observed several years ago in her important anthology of post-Wissenschaft critical essays, What Is Jewish Literature?, ``there is no consensus nor is it likely that there will ever be one about de®ning the subject under study.''⁴ Yet the attempts to de®ne Jewish literature have proliferated. Some have maintained broadly that Jewish literature is simply literature written by Jews. (Wirth-Nesher ®nds this particularly unsatisfactory.) But most, particularly in recent times, have insisted on a more culture-based de®nition: some, that Jewish literature must be written in a Jewish language; others, that it be about Jewish characters or emerge from Jewish historical experience; still others, that it be informed by variously identi®ed Jewish ideas and idealsÐGeo²rey Hartman (for instance), that it be anti-iconic; Cynthia Ozick, that it be liturgical; Leslie Fiedler, that it be therapeutic and prophetic; Saul Bellow, that it be marked by ``laughter and trembling . . . so curiously mixed that it is not easy to determine the relations of the two.''⁵ So multifarious have the answers been that Wirth-Nesher is led to suggest that the persistence of the question is, in fact, a function of the ultimate inde®nability of the subject. An understandable conclusion, given the history of Jews in modern times. After all, Jewish literature and its study are necessarily and inextricably bound up with the rupture in Jewish history marked by Enlightenment and EmancipationÐ by the breakdown of rabbinic authority, the de-politicizing of Jewish corporate status, and the consequent renegotiations of Jewish personal and collective identityÐin short, by the re-presentation (in the cogent 1917 formulation of Rabbi Yitzhak Nissenbaum) of the external ``Jewish Question'' as an internal ``Jewish'' question.⁶ ``We no longer know,'' as Harold Bloom has written, ``just what makes a book Jewish . . . because we have no authority to instruct us as to what is or is not Jewish thought.''⁷ In this vein, Sacvan Bercovitch has suggested that what marks Jewish literature is not so much the presence of a particular, unifying quality as ``the absence of a common language, territory, culture.''⁸ So, too, Dan Miron has argued that Jewish literary history is such a ``chaotic reality'' that it can notÐand should Race, Literary History, and the ``Jewish'' Question ❙ 289 notÐbe reduced to ``some unifying pattern'' but rather seen as ``a fragmented array of diverse, independent literary developments.''⁹ To compound the problem, the literary question rests ®rmly upon and is thoroughly enmeshed in the thorny political question ``Who is a Jew?'' that has proven di³cult even to address in recent times, let alone answer de®nitively.¹⁰ We cannot say meaningfully nowadays that one writer is more or...
This article begins with the observation that one of the most famous bad wife tales in rabbinic literature (Genesis Rabbah 17:3) is not really a tale about women at all. While Genesis Rabbah 17:3 is formally structured as a tale of two wives, the bad wife of Rabbi Yose and the good wife of Rabbi Ḥananiah ben Ḥakhinai, the narrative is not primarily directed at shaping a feminine ideal but works to negotiate competing visions of male honor. Specifically, the narrative works to overturn a model of male Jewish honor based on a paterfamilias model of individual leadership in favor of a system in which male Jewish honor derives from visible adherence to the norms of the rabbinic academy. This article thus explores a common dissonance in early rabbinic narratives about women, asking why women's literary bodies are so effective as a material through which male social ideals can be negotiated. The article concludes that the fictional women in such stories function in a mode very similar to what Mikhail Bahktin described as a “fairytale chronotope,” in which landscapes, objects, and animals are animated to make the defining structures of a particular social moment visible by distilling them into a perceptible representative but without the blurring complications of a full human subjectivity.
The article presents a forgotten manuscript of the first extensive critical evaluation of Y. H. Brenner's literary work, a complete dissertation written in French by Shmuel Homelsky-Sagiv (Kiev, 1892-Tel Aviv, 1966) and submitted to the Sorbonne University, Paris, in 1913. It was composed under the supervision of Nahum Slouschz (Smorgon, 1872-Tel Aviv, 1966). Homelsky's work on Brenner has hardly been mentioned in later research, due mainly to the publication of a shortened Hebrew version in the journal Hatsefirah following Brenner's death in 1921. This later version was assumed to be a mere translation of the earlier French dissertation, and the important differences between the two were ignored. No critical writing preceding Homelsky's 1913 dissertation either addressed Brenner's complete work or assessed its chronological development. In this article, I present the archival findings that led me to read Homelsky's French dissertation. I then discuss his pioneering attempt at a typology of the modern Jewish protagonist in Brenner's writings. In the second part of the article, I proceed to a detailed study of the context in which the dissertation was written in pre-World War I Paris. Homelsky's “French Brenner” is situated at a rare historical moment, disclosing important parts of the ideological maze from which the modern Jewish protagonist emerged. This is closely bound up with what I call “the other legacy” of Jewish-European modernism, adding new information regarding the provenance and conception of the Hebrew talush (“uprooted person”).
How did East European Jewish immigrants in America remember, depict and recreate the cities of Eastern Europe? Through an examination of selected articles and poems from landsmanshaft (hometown associational) publications, this article examines the metaphors, images and idioms summoned by immigrant writers in the interwar landsmanshaft press to describe their former urban homes. Though many question landsmanshaft publications' aesthetic value, this article argues that they vividly capture the voice of the people, providing a lens through which to glimpse the inner world and popular culture of Jewish immigrants in early-twentieth century New York. Some writers reinvented their former urban homes by deploying the leitmotif of the shtetl, while others used motherland imagery; all, however, used their recreations of the East European city to ponder the price of migration and to ruminate on the promise of America.
In the spring of 1926, David Bergelson changed his affiliation, breaking with Abraham Cahan's Forverts and joining the writers who grouped around the pro-Soviet Frayhayt. By the end of the same year, Bergelson (a Berlin resident in 1921-33) was dispatched to the Soviet Union to report the achievements of the Communist country. In the meantime, the Forverts sent its Warsaw-based corresspondent I. J. Singer to the Soviet Union. The article introduces and analyzes Bergelson's and Singer's Moscow travelogues, translated for this publication.
Of all the novels in Saul Bellow's oeuvre, Henderson the Rain King (1959) seems to be the only one that is unrelated to Jewish life. Its plot revolves around an Anglo-Saxon millionaire, Eugene Henderson, who travels to Africa in search of answers to his existential crisis. This article shows that the novel is actually replete with Jewish themes and it positions the book alongside other postwar texts that disguised Jewish modes of expression within seemingly universal narratives. Henderson is framed in Yiddish and biblical rhetoric and reflects the ideas that Bellow developed in response to the Holocaust. It is also full of contradictions and ambiguities characteristic of this postwar genre; for instance, Henderson is exaggeratedly goyish at the same time he features many quintessential Jewish traits. By bringing attention to these aspects of the novel, this reading engages with critical and theoretical debates around how to demarcate the parameters that define Jewish American literature. It encourages the reader to reconsider those postwar texts that have been misinterpreted as diverging from Jewishness. And it directs them beyond the obvious hallmarks of Jewishness toward subtler cues that account for the ambivalences of postwar Jewish American identification.
The Cellar (Hamartef, Natan Gross, 1963) is a groundbreaking film—the only Israeli fictional film created by Holocaust survivors regarding the Holocaust and its aftermath from the perspective of a Holocaust survivor protagonist. Yet it has been largely ignored by studies on the representation of the Holocaust in Israeli cinema and has not been attributed proper significance. This article is the first to give center stage to this pioneering film. It shows that this under researched film was the marker of change, a first cinematic attempt at relating the story of Holocaust survivors with complexity and depth, which threw aside the shallow narrative of national redemption in Israel, that characterized Israeli cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. Instead it focused on 1930s Germany and the return to Germany after World War II, periods which had thus far been neglected in Israeli cinema. Moreover, the article highlights The Cellar as exceptional in comparison to fictional films produced after 1963, which focus mainly on the lives of Holocaust survivors in Israel, and which disregard the themes of life in 1930s Europe, as well as the attempts by survivors to return home after World War II.
This article analyzes the Yiddish poetry series at the 92 Street Y in New York City in the 1960s by focusing on four of its organizers, participants and fictional chroniclers. The 92nd Street Y's Poetry Center's Yiddish and Hebrew Poetry Series ran from the 1962–1963 through the 1969–1970 season, and featured more than thirty Yiddish poets, as well as a handful who wrote in Hebrew, including Yiddish/Hebrew bilingual poets. Thanks to the fact that the 92 Street Y recorded these events, the Yiddish poetry series offers an aural portrait of secular Yiddish culture in America during the 1960s, when most of the great Yiddish poets were still alive. The material discussed contributes to the mapping of literary multilingualism in America during the period of radical cultural changes and aesthetic shifts that took place in New York in the 1960s.
The stereotypical character of Walk on Water (Israel, 2004) has represented a severe obstacle for many viewers, who have been quick to denounce it as both trite and superficial. This article argues instead that the film's clearly intentional and self-conscious recycling of numerous cliche concerning Germans and Israelis alike points to its deeper meaning and purpose. In particular, it shows that these cliches constitute the essential infrastructure with which the film engages and attempts to resolve the problematic German Israeli, and by extension Christian Jewish, relationship in the aftermath of the Holocaust. It further suggests that the film offers its own "final solution" to this vexed relationship a "messianic" deliverance from the respective traumas of each party in the form: of an allegorical synthesis of Jewish and Christian theology, directly reflected in the contrasts and evolving relationship between its two primary characters. Itself highly stereotypical, the theology upon which the film draws facilitates its critique of German and especially Israeli attitudes toward power and violence.
Ḥaquqot otiyotayikh (Engraved Are Thy Letters) is an epic hymn to the Hebrew language composed by the American Hebrew poet Abraham Regelson at the end of World War II. The passionate commitment to Hebrew on display in the poem is infused with erotic and religious elements and helps us understand the often unspoken assumptions that undergirded the Hebraist movement in America. The gendered relationship of the male speaker to Hebrew, figured as a woman, is explored in its relationship to the jouissance of textuality. The plasticity of Hebrew that is enabled by the tri-consonantal verb stem in turn authorizes in the poet a seemingly infinite scope for invention and play. In Regelson's pantheistic conception, Hebrew is also the vehicle through which divinity is made manifest to the world.
This essay proposes a comparative reading of Yoram Kaniuk's novel Adam Resurrected (1969) and David Grossmans' novel See Under: Love (1986). It follows changes in Israeli society as a remembering community from the 1960s, when Kaniuk's novel was published, to the 1980s. The essay identifies a shift from a more optimistic stand reflected in the early novel regarding the prospects of recovering from the Holocaust trauma to a more pessimistic one. This is attributed to a decrease in the belief in collective solidarity and, consequently, in the ability of humanly interaction to save survivors from their loss of self-dignity as human beings. Moreover, a more profound understanding of the potential of evil in any human interaction determines See Under: Love to serious doubt in the prospects of the recovery of humanity, particularly through art, to which it is so highly committed.
While the Hebrew Bible may lack a sustained reflection on the nature of literary art, some biblical poems nevertheless appear to be self-conscious of their own literary production. This article investigates how the texts themselves conceptualize the nature and potential of the aesthetic word. One situation in which self-consciousness of aesthetic production is evident is use of the verb dalet-mem-heh (“to make a likeness”) in Song of Songs, Lamentations, and prophetic poetry. This essay explores how poets self-consciously used poetic language to create verbal images that have the ability to escape rhetorical and theological purposes. These images can evoke surprising, even paradoxical experiences, such as spaces of beauty and consolation in the midst of terror and destruction. These passages, along with other prophetic texts that characterize and critique poetry, reveal that some ancient Israelite poets already recognized that poetry can function not just as mere ornament or illustration but as a creative act that retains a productive power all its own.
In this article, I argue that Israeli literature of the last decade imagines Israeli history in a different way than its postmodern predecessors of the 1980s and 1990s. Focusing on the way history is imagined in Lilach Netanel's The Hebrew Condition and Yiftach Ashkenazi's Fulfillment, I argue that both novels consciously revolve around a crisis of historicity, or the ability to relate subjective experience to history. This article contends that literary celebration of the dissolution of the so-called Zionist metanarrative during the 1980s and 1990s is dialectically subsumed in the contemporary recognition of this dissolution as a generalized loss of the possibility of narrating history. I conclude by suggesting that this transformation in literary historical imaginary should be seen as part of an attempt to attempt to imagine solutions to the contradictions of Israeli neoliberal capitalism and its social effects.
This essay argues that Greenberg and Agnon employ simplistic rhyming in their works for rhetorical effect. It shows that both writers use this rather sophisticated literary device to express their criticism of inauthenticity in the sphere of religion: artificial worship in Agnon's case, and hypocritical divinity in Greenberg's. For Agnon, parody is used as part of an endeavor to provide historical documentation of certain institutional religious practices. For Greenberg, it is a means of representing the devastation of humanity following World Wail. Methodologically, what follows is a formalist engagement with a particular literary idiosyncrasy: the incorporation of bad poetry into otherwise serious and skillful literary work.
Alan Mintz's Ancestral Tales provides the fullest critical account of Agnon's A City in Its Fullness, Agnon's posthumous volume of stories about his Galician hometown from its beginnings until the eighteenth century. It is likely to remain the definitive account. Many of the readings are innovative, and all are informed by a rich sense of the cultural and historical backgrounds on which Agnon drew. Although some of the claims made for the artistic achievement of the Agnon volume may be overstated, this last book by Alan Mintz remains an important achievement.
“In Quest of Du” is a literary comparative analysis of how dialogue in several Jewish literatures (in Hebrew, German and Aramaic) forms presence, concealment and attachments. By carefully reading the exchange between Abraham and Isaac in Genesis, the priest and Josef K. in The Trail, the rabbi and the tsaddiq in “The Hidden Tsaddiq” and several liturgical verses between the prayer and his addressee, God, the article suggests new theoretical insights for understanding performance in literature, and through that, the poetics and ideological deficiencies of Jewish literature. Alongside these dialogues, the article also explores literary and linguistics approaches to pronouns and their presence, German-Jewish philosophy of dialogism and its resonance in the work of Levinas and Derrida, delving again into literature's ability to forge links by way of dialogues, but also into dialogue's limits.
It has been a commonplace in the criticism and interpretation of the fiction of Devorah Baron (1887-1956) to refer to her fiction as a form of poetry in prose, or as an “idyll” that poetically represents a static shtetl past. This article breaks the idyll, so to speak, showing how Baron's ambitious fiction reshapes the narrative perspective, plot, and motifs of several layers of (male) canonical tradition, specifically. Part of a larger comparative study of the fiction of S. Y. Agnon and Devorah Baron, it focuses on their shared admiration for and common intertextual engagements with Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856-57), as seen in Baron's translation of the classic novel, Agnon's realist novel Sippur pashut (1935) and Baron's “Fradl” (1946). A close reading of Baron's later story “Fradl” discloses the intertextual traces of both Baron's Madame Bovary and Agnon's novel, references that can be read as overturning elements of Agnon's and Flaubert's masterworks in specifically feminist and non-idyllic ways. The presence in many of her stories, including “Fradl,” of a controlling first-person female narrator, one who lives apart from the world being described and employs multilayered intertextuality and ars-poetic reflection, suggests an effort to craft an image of the woman writer capable of intervening in and reconfiguring the literary past.
Money, gifts, and debts play a crucial role in Agnon’s first novella, Vehaya he’akov lemishor (And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight; 1912), which tells the story of the bankruptcy of middle-class shopkeepers Menasheh Ÿayim and his wife Kreindel Tcharni in mid-nineteenth-century Galicia. Following Nietzsche’s claim of the internalization of debt as the origin of monotheist religion, I read Agnon’s novella as the literary construction of an analogy between capitalism and religious faith as two economic systems of debt and credit, destined for crisis. Framed this way, Menasheh Ÿayim’s subsequent journey as a beggar brings up questions of sin, responsibility, and the hierarchy of monetary and divine debts. Whereas Menasheh Ÿayim’s life is constructed via debts to external authorities, his death exchanged for his wife’s life underscores that the debt to the human other functions in Agnon’s novella as a gift which bypasses the economy of debt and credit. Read this way, Menasheh Ÿayim’s death for an other against the demands of an external authority becomes a critique of both the traditional and modern Jewish subject, constituted through debt to religion or its modern substitutes such as capitalism or Zionism.
This essay discusses the interplay of German and Hebrew in S. Y. Agnon’s later fiction, particularly Ad henah (To This Day; 1952). In this work, Agnon, who had lived in Germany between 1912 and 1924, revisits the German home front during World War I. He uses this setting to reflect upon the modern status of Hebrew—the sacred language of creation—in a world ravaged by war, including the more contemporary 1948 battles. For this meditation on language, creation, and destruction, he draws on the golem tale, which had become a mainstay of German-language literature in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As his “golem,” Agnon casts a brain-injured German soldier who has forgotten his name, family, and home. Agnon’s rich rewriting of the golem story, a narrative of animation through language, establishes an unholy alliance between Hebrew and German and invites a reconsideration of Gustav Meyrink’s occult bestseller, Der Golem, first published in 1915. Through translations of his stories into German in the 1910s, Agnon found himself hailed as the “authentic” chronicler of East European Jewish life, particularly as contrasted with the “inauthentic” Meyrink. Pushing back against this dichotomy and the past cult surrounding his works in German Jewish circles, Agnon’s mid-twentieth-century writing reveals the ongoing presence, and even preservation, of German language and culture within modern Hebrew.
This essay offers careful examination of the often overlooked early works of S. Y. Agnon and offers insight into the original raw material from which he crafted a literary universe over his long career. Elements of Agnon's adolescent writing in Yiddish and Hebrew prior to his departure for Erets Yisrael in 1908, aged nineteen, would be rearranged in stories, novellas, and novels from the moment his career is conventionally considered to have begun, with his arrival in Jaffa, up to and including material he was working on shortly before his death in 1970. Through an analysis of an almost completely overlooked 1907 story, “The City of the Dead” (translated and annotated in the article's appendix), we see how Agnon already saw himself as the chronicler of his native Buczacz in ways that occupied the author for over six decades in a long artistic arc that led to the culminating project in the posthumously published A City in Its Fullness.
Yotam Reuveny's novel Night Diary was one of the first texts in Hebrew literature that engaged with the issue of HIV/AIDS. This groundbreaking text defied basic social concepts and cultural conventions of the time and opened the door to much more complex public discourse about homosexuality and gay identity in a context in which homosexuality was still illegal in Israel. Although generally overlooked, Night Diary is a sophisticated and ingenious text, which employs allusions and other literary techniques in order to offer comfort and solace to oppressed people. The novel stages gay cruising as an empowering act in a time of HIV/AIDS.
Vered ha-Levanon (Rose of Lebanon; 2008), an autobiographical novel by Lea Aini, suggests a profound and subversive discussion on issues that constitute the foundation of cultural and social identity in Israel. The novel includes several narratives belonging to various literary genres but also deviating from them, including personal testimony, the story of second-generation Holocaust survivors, and a Bildungsroman. Each of these narratives is substantially deconstructed, and its components and contents reorganized. Two plots are interwoven in the novel: that of the narrator childhood as a daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and that of her meetings with Yonatan the wounded soldier. Each narrative represents a different father—the private one and the national one. The narrator, trapped between these fathers, is struggling to find her authentic voice. In doing so, she rejects both narratives, but at the same time she uses her personal story in order to stress some essential insights about the sociopolitical situation in Israel.
An often painful irony was perhaps Bernard Malamud most distinct feature as a writer of fiction. This essay attempts to view two major features of that irony as it functions in his novel, God's Grace. The first involves his play with the tradition of the Robinsonade and its treatment of a solitary human being's attempt to survive alone on a desert island; the second involves his treatment of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac). Defbe's Robinson Crusoe involved a mariner who not only endured the pains of loneliness but managed to construct a kind of society on his island. During the three centuries since its writing it has become an important myth in Western civilization, raising questions about the values by which we govern our lives. Malamud's Crusoe, Calvin Cohn, attempts to rebuild a human (in some sense a Jewish) civilization after God's destruction of humanity following a nuclear war. Malamud's bitterly comic account takes the reader down the path of hope where there is no hope, of laughter close to tears. In treating the Akedah in God's Grace, Malamud chooses an even more bitter event, for Abraham is seemingly ordered by God to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, the future of the Jewish people. If Malamud's version of Crusoe is hopeless, his treatment of the Akedah is even more so, for it is Calvin Cohn who will play the role of Isaac as he is sacrificed by a troop of chimpanzees. Again, Malamud shows himself to be the master of irony in treating the weaknesses besetting the human condition.
For decades—half a lifetime, really—you write to Alan, sharing an idea, a thought, an essay, and eagerly await his response. Always gracious, generous, even when he (oh-so-politely) takes issue with this or that claim. Then, suddenly, you are writing about Alan, hoping that something of his mind and spirit will be conveyed through your words. As present tense becomes past tense in your rhetoric, the presentness of his voice and his soul must somehow flow through you...
Sholem Aleichem's “Genz” (Geese; 1902) is the monologue of Basia, a trader of geese, who unfolds before her silent listener—a man, apparently a writer—the hardships of her vocation. It is not the “gem story” that she promises to tell, but rather a twisted account with countless detours and digressions. Neither is it, however, a stream of associations generated by a loquacious woman's unruly tongue. The monologue, exuberant until it becomes ferocious, is a farce of fictional storytelling, of literature as a refined and edifying endeavor: a grotesque performance poking fun at the writer-listener, whose bookish language and concepts of the proper have never brushed against the realities of everyday life. Postponing her promised story in order to deliver what appears as a heap of petty anecdotes and guff, Basia produces in her monologue something of her reality—of the suspensions that govern Jewish women's lives and of the compromised language of those who are enmeshed in the web of worldly affairs. “Genz,” the raging and vengeful soliloquy, is an attempt to subvert gender hierarchies as they manifest themselves in language by a woman who recognizes her irrevocable exclusion from the sources of symbolic capital.
The Soviet Yiddish poet Dovid Hofshteyn (1889-1952) is one of the best-known Yiddish-language modernist writers. During the 1930s, however, Hofshteyn's primary literary genre was translation, particularly from Russian and Ukrainian—languages he knew well enough to have written poetry in himself. This article addresses Hofshteyn's translations of the Ukrainian Romantic poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) into Yiddish. Hofshteyn's translations of Shevchenko appeared primarily in the 1930s, years of increased strictures on Soviet original poetry—especially the poetry of Soviet minorities. These translations, however, exemplify a creative appropriation of a neighboring culture in order to express contemporary concerns about Jewish culture. As this article shall demonstrate, translation from Ukrainian allowed Hofshteyn to express modern Jewish themes of alienation in terms acceptable to the increasingly Russo-centric world of Soviet internationalism.
1. Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language (New York, 1990), p. 164. 2. See discussions of Feni Edelman, Der shpigl fun lebn (The mirror of life) (1948) and Rokhl Kirsh Holtman, Mayn lebns-veg (My life path) (1948) in Susanne Shavelson, From Amerike to America: Language and Identity in the Yiddish and English Autobiographies of Jewish Immigrant Women, diss., University of Michigan, 1996. 3. Antin's autobiography appeared in seven parts from October 1911 to March 1912. In his foreword to the 1969 edition, Oscar Handlin notes that The Promised Land "sold some 85,000 copies in 34 printings" (Boston, 1969), unnumbered page. 4. "The Immigrant," New York Times Review of Books, 14 April 1912: 228. 5. Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in Autobiography (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), p. 68. 6. Sidonie Smith, A Poetics of Women's Autobiography (Bloomington, 1987), pp. 58-59. Further references will be cited in the text. 7. Irving Howe, World of Our Fathers (New York, 1976), p. 505. 8. "Chaim Zhitlovsky," Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971), 16:1009-11. 9. Mary Antin, The Promised Land (Boston, 1912), p. xiii. Further references will be cited in the text. 10. For a detailed discussion of photographic illustrations in Antin's and other autobiographies, see Betty Bergland, "Rereading Photographs and Narratives in Ethnic Autobiography: Memory and Subjectivity in Mary Antin's The Promised Land," in Memory, Narrative, and Identity: New Essays in Ethnic American Literatures, ed. Amritjit Singh, Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr., and Robert E. Hogan (Boston, 1994), pp. 45-88. 11. Magdalena Zaborowska, How We Found America: Reading Gender Through East European Narratives (Chapel Hill, 1995), pp. 50-51. 12. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar," in Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Stephen E. Whicher (Boston, 1957), p. 79. 13. Emerson, "Self-Reliance," in Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson, p. 150. 14. "Self-Reliance," p. 151. 15. Sam Girgus, The Law of the Heart: Individualism and the Modern Self in American Literature (Austin, 1979), p. 22. 16. I will provide both the Yiddish original and my English translation in long quotations in order to present as much of the original text as possible. For shorter quotations that fall in the middle of a paragraph, however, I will use only the translation. All translations are my own. 17. Aliza Greenblatt, Baym fentster fun a lebn (New York, 1966), p. 9. Further references will be cited in the text. 18. On the Jewish calendar, the day after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The Fast of Gedalia commemorates the slaying of Gedalia Ben Achikam, the governor of Judea after the destruction of the First Temple. He had tried to unify the Jewish people under Babylonian rule; his assassination resulted in the final exile of the Babylonian Jews to Egypt. This was considered such a great calamity that a fast day was designated to commemorate his death. Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971), 7:351-52. 19. The term Greenblatt uses, oyf kest, refers to a customary arrangement among Eastern European Jews in which a young married couple was provided with room and board (usually by the wife's parents) for a set period of time, to allow the husband the freedom to pursue the study of Jewish sacred texts. The kest was usually arranged in advance as part of the marriage agreement between the two families. 20. Georg Lukàcs, Realism in Our Time: Literature and the Class Struggle (New York, 1971), p. 19. 21. A partial list of Greenblatt's verses and their composers is included among the papers relating to the English translation of Baym fentster fun a lebn. Aliza Greenblatt papers, American Jewish Historical Society, Waltham, Mass. 22. Ruth Wisse, A Little Love in Big Manhattan (Cambridge, Mass., 1988), p. 193. 23. In a letter to Greenblatt's son, Bauman described her role as follows: "I've tried to enlarge and expand what your mother had written originally." Irma Bauman, letter to Ben Greenblatt, 2 March 1972, Aliza Greenblatt papers, American Jewish Historical Society. Writing to Leonard Fein in hope of having an excerpt published in Moment magazine, Bauman said, "My role in this work is that I edited, revised and added...
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