Yiddish Literature in the 20th Century
Yiddish writers emigrated from Europe, and though Yiddish writing all but ceased after the Holocaust, it is seeing a small rebirth today.
Nevertheless, a young, vital, mostly American-born generation of Yiddish writers has sprung up phoenix-like in the wake of the Holocaust. The work of this group was first exhibited in 1989in an anthology titled Vidervuks (Regrowth), published jointly by the League for Yiddish and the Yugentruf organizations.
Vidervuks: a nayer dor yidishe shraybers (Regrowth: A New Generation of Yiddish Writers) features the work of 20 young poets, short-story writers, and essayists born after the Holocaust in such diverse places as Argentina, Canada, Israel, Poland, Russia, and the United States. Among them are emerging figures in Yiddish cultural circles such as Leybl Botwinik, David E. Fishman, Paul Glasser, Itzek Gottesman, Avrom Novershtern, Leye Robinson, David G. Roskies, and Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath.
The anthology was named after a Yiddish literary group called Vidervuks that appeared some 80 years ago in post-World War I Kiev. Its name symbolized a rebirth of Yiddish literary activity after the pogroms of 1917-20. If the recently reincarnated Vidervuks will live up to its promise, it will constitute a rebirth of Yiddish cultural activity in the 21st century.
Thus, though contemporary Yiddish literature is often described as a dying art, it continues to make its presence known. As the Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer said:
"Why do I write in a dying language? I like to write about ghosts. Nothing fits a ghost better than a dying language. Ghosts love Yiddish--they all speak it. I believe in resurrection and the Messiah will soon come, and millions of Yiddish-speaking corpses will rise from their graves one day and their first questions will be: "Is there any new Yiddish book to read?" (Source: "Isaac in America," WNET Public Television, 1985, from Singer's remarks when receiving the Nobel Prize, not found in his speech from Nobel Archives.)
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