Legenda Conference: Adapting the Canon (10 October 2014)

Yiddish in Weimar Berlin
At the Crossroads of Diaspora Politics and Culture

Edited by Gennady Estraikh and Mikhail Krutikov

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National and cultural identity
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Studies In Yiddish 8

Legenda: Oxford, 2010
£45.00 ($89.50 US)  Hardback  286pp
ISBN: 978-1-906540-70-8


Berlin emerged from the First World War as a multicultural European capital of immigration from the former Russian Empire, and while many Russian emigrés moved to France and other countries in the 1920s, a thriving east European Jewish community remained. Yiddish-speaking intellectuals and activists participated vigorously in German cultural and political debate. Multilingual Jewish journalists, writers, actors and artists, invigorated by the creative atmosphere of the city, formed an environment which facilitated exchange between the main centres of Yiddish culture: eastern Europe, North America and Soviet Russia. All this came to an end with the Nazi rise to power in 1933, but Berlin remained a vital presence in Jewish cultural memory, as is testified by the works of Sholem Asch, Israel Joshua Singer, Zalman Shneour, Moyshe Kulbak, Uri Zvi Grinberg and Meir Wiener.

This volume includes contributions by an international team of leading scholars dealing with various aspects of history, arts and literature, which tell the dramatic story of Yiddish cultural life in Weimar Berlin as a case study in the modern European culture.

Gennady Estraikh is Associate Professor of Yiddish Studies, New York University. Mikhail Krutikov is Assistant Professor of Jewish-Slavic Relations at the University of Michigan.

With the contributions:

Gennady Estraikh — Introduction: Yiddish on the Spree
Shachar Pinsker — Deciphering the Hieroglyphics of the Metropolis: Literary Topographies of Berlin in Hebrew and Yiddish Modernism
Heather Valencia — A Yiddish Poet Engages with German Society: A. N. Stencl’s Weimar Period
Jordan Finkin — ‘Like fires in overgrown forests’: Moyshe Kulbak’s Contemporary Berlin Poetics
Marc Caplan — Belarus in Berlin, Berlin in Belarus: Moyshe Kulbak’s Raysn and Meshiekh ben-Efrayim between Nostalgia and Apocalypse
Sabine Koller — ‘The air outside is bloody’: Leyb Kvitko and his Pogrom Cycle 1919
Verena Dohrn — A Warm Morning Gown and a Shawl from Berlin: Liebe Zaltsman’s Yiddish Letters to Helene Koigen
Gennady Estraikh — The Berlin Bureau of the New York Forverts
Amy Blau — Max Weinreich in Weimar Germany
Anne-Christin Saß — Reports from the ‘Republic Lear’: David Eynhorn in Weimar Berlin 1920–24
Barry Trachtenberg — Jewish Universalism, the Yiddish Encyclopedia, and the Nazi Rise to Power
Jonathan Skolnik — Yiddish, the Storyteller, and German-Jewish Modernism: A New Look at Alfred Döblin in the 1920s
Elvira Grözinger — Between Literature and History: Israel Joshua Singer’s Berlin Novel The Family Carnovsky as a Cul-de-Sac of the German-Jewish ‘Symbiosis’
Mikhail Krutikov — Unkind Mirrors: Berlin in Three Yiddish Novels of the 1930s

Reviews:

  • ‘In the 1920s, Yiddish was more than just a lingua franca for East European Jewish émigrés; it was also a language of high culture, as demonstrated by a brilliant new book, Yiddish in Weimar Berlin: At the Crossroads of Diaspora Politics and Culture.’ — Benjamin Ivry, The Arty Semite Online
  • ‘To be commended for keeping alive the names, literary output, and civilization of a Yiddish world that is lost forever.’ — Ellen Share, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews February/March 2011, 15
  • ‘There are many interesting articles in this volume. It is clear that in this brief period of flourishing Yiddish cultural activity there is much to disentangle. Berlin is a cultural and political hub in the Weimar period. An influx of multilingual Jews... enter a German Jewish world within a German world. Each of these ‘migrants’ arrives with existing cultural attachments into a war-time/post-war landscape which is signalling all kinds of modernisms. Some Yiddish writers in Berlin acknowledge the city in their literary work, others do not or only minimally. Berlin often emerges later once writers have moved elsewhere and begin to ‘recreate their past’.’ — Helen Beer, Slavonic and East European Review 90.2, April 2012, 332-34


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