How the Holocaust Brought a Great Yiddish Writer to Forsake Poetry for Epic Prose

Little known to the English-speaking world, Chava Rosenfarb (1923–2011) is generally considered in Yiddish literary circles to be one of the greatest post-World War II writers in that language. Born in Poland, Rosenfarb endured the war in the Łódź Ghetto, Auschwitz, and other concentration camps. Thereafter she settled in Canada, where she wrote most of her major works. Reviewing a collection of her nonfiction that recently appeared in English, Marc Caplan writes:

Rosenfarb . . . earned her stellar reputation for her epic novels, in the style of Tolstoy, and her novellas, mostly psychological tales, in the style of Chekhov. [But] she began her career as a poet, with the volume The Ballad of Yesterday’s Forest (1949).

In the first essay of the collection, Rosenfarb writes: “The brutal reality of the ghetto demanded the dry precision of unadorned words. Not that I wanted to ban the poet within me; on the contrary, I wanted her to stand by me, but I wanted her to creep with me through the maze of ghetto streets, through the muck of human baseness, as low to the ground as possible.”

“Liberation,” Rosenfarb wrote in a diary that she kept in a displaced-persons camp, “wears a prosaic face.” . . . Her vision in those days, nearly identical to her developed fictional works, was to weave together the raw terror of the Holocaust with an artistic perspective to create a panoramic picture of what occurred and to whom, including both the fate of the victims and the vitality of Yiddish culture that had flowered until the war.

For this reason, one should consider these essays as an extension or “appendix” to Rosenfarb’s masterworks in fiction. But as an extension, the essays also offer insight into her grand novels and penetrating novellas. Her immense literary legacy grew out of the first poems of her youth, which were literally carved into the walls of the ghetto. Those poems are the seeds from which her mature work flowered. As a result, one could consider her prose as “poetry by other means.”

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Read more at Forward

More about: Holocaust, Holocaust survivors, Poetry, Yiddish literature

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf