This text provides a history of how Yiddish storytelling became the politics of rescue for successive generations of displaced Jewish artists, embodying their fervent hopes and greatest fears in the languages of tradition. Its protagonists are modern writers who returned to storytelling in the hope of harnessing the folk tradition and who created copies that are better than the original. When the cultural revolution failed - as it did for Rabbi Nahman of Bratslaw in the summer of 1806, I.L. Peretz in the winter of 1899, Kiev novelist Sholem Aleichem in 1890, kibbutz novelist Yosl Birstein in 1960 and Polish-Jewish refugees Isaac Bashevis Singer and Jechiel Isaiah Trunk when they cast ashore in America - there seemed but one route out of the spiritual and creative impasse, and that was storytelling. Yiddish storytelling was a lost art, relegated to obscurity among religious texts and synagogue sermons, then abandoned by Jewish rebels and immigrants seeking more cosmopolitan forms of expression. Thus its recovery is a tale of loss and redemption. Beyond the weddings that end the fairy tales and romances of Rabbi Nahman, I.L.
Peretz, Der Nister and Abraham Sutzkever and beneath the folksy facade of holiday stories by I.M. Dik and Sholem Aleichem this text suggests that there lies an aesthetic and moral sensibility totally at odds with the coarse humour and conventional piety of the folk. Taken together, these writers and their deceptively simple folk narratives weave a pattern of rebellion, loss, and retrieval that Roskies calls "creative betrayal" - a pattern he traces from the weddings of Yiddish fantasy to the reinvented traditions of contemporary Jews.
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(235mm x 155mm x 22mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Author Biography - David G. Roskies
David G. Roskies is the Sol and Evelyn Henkind Chair in Yiddish Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.