Yale University Press, in partnership with Open Road Media, has just announced an important new project. Here is the release on the project:
I have decided to start a in honor of this The Reading Life Yale University Yiddish Project. I have previously posted on Issac Babel's short stories. Most of the writers, all seem to be men, were deeply into the reading life, some authorities see this as a result of the tradition of Talmudic scholarship deeply rooted in the culture. It was doomed culture, what the Russians did not destroy the Nazis did. Several of the writers in the collection immigrated to America and greatly enriched the literary culture they found there. Lamad Shapiro, along with his mother, immigrated to America.
"The Cross" is Shapiro's most famous story. The narrator of the story is traveling across America with another Russian Jew. They ride the top of railroad cars and live off what farmers give them and they steal chickens and such when they need to. The narrator has been wondering how his companion got a cross carved into his forehead. In a torrent from the darkest history of Pogroms in Russia against Jews he tells of a terrible night in which the Goys attacked Jews with an incredible fury and hatred. The very real power in this story is in the descriptions and in the reaction to events brought about for the narrator. This is a very dark story, dealing with human evil without flinching. It is not a comfortable read.
Lamed Shapiro (1878-1948) was the author of groundbreaking and controversial short stories, novellas, and essays. Himself a tragic figure, Shapiro led a life marked by frequent ocean crossings, alcoholism, and failed ventures, yet his writings are models of precision, psychological insight, and daring.
Shapiro focuses intently on the nature of violence: the mob violence of pogroms committed against Jews; the traumatic aftereffects of rape, murder, and powerlessness; the murderous event that transforms the innocent child into witness and the rabbi's son into agitator. Within a society on the move, Shapiro's refugees from the shtetl and the traditional way of life are in desperate search of food, shelter, love, and things of beauty. Remarkably, and against all odds, they sometimes find what they are looking for. More often than not, the climax of their lives is an experience of ineffable terror.
This collection also reveals Lamed Shapiro as an American master. His writings depict the Old World struggling with the New, extremes of human behavior combined with the pursuit of normal happiness. Through the perceptions of a remarkable gallery of men, women, children—of even animals and plants—Shapiro successfully reclaimed the lost world of the shtetl as he negotiated East Broadway and the Bronx, Union Square, and vaudeville.
Both in his life and in his unforgettable writings, Lamed Shapiro personifies the struggle of a modern Jewish artist in search of an always elusive home. From Yale University Press.
It will take me a while to read and digest this literature. I think it will enrich my reading life.
In interests of full discourse, I was given the full Yale Digital Collection of Yiddish Literature.