Saturday, September 23, 2017

Jacob Glatstein: Yiddish Poetry After The Holocaust (1955)



Yiddish Poetry After the Holocaust (1955): Interview with Jacob Glatstein
ViaYoutube & Yiddish Book Center

Jacob Glatstein [also spelled Yankev Glatshteynborn 1896 in Lublin, Poland–died 1971 in New York City] gives good reasons why Yiddish poetry after the Holocaust changed direction. This is instructive for those who plead ignorance or apathy. Such historical thought and insight, to a large degree, proves instructive to those of us who are interested in 20th century Yiddish poetry and Yiddishkayt and the preservation of both.

This comes at a time when the voices of the past are most urgently sought for their lucidity and understanding of the Jewish People and, moreover, how the particular moral and philosophical needs can be met outside the boundaries of traditional religion, and yet still have the strength to ask the questions of faith that have kept the Jews as Jews. Never an easy life, but an authentic one, I would think.

Glatstein, like a poet-prophet, had foretold of the upcoming catastrophe in Europe, having written a series of poems in 1938 and 1939, the most famous being “A gute nakht, velt” (“Goodnight, World;” 1938). After the Holocaust, it became clear that Yiddish poetry could no longer mirror western civilization, di goyisher velt, which is to say that of “Christian Europe,” which had without remorse or mercy prepared the ground, the way, if you will, to the khurbn eyrope (חורבן אײראָפּע), the destruction of European Jewry. Under such dire conditions, now more than ever, Yiddish had to have its own authentic voice, Yiddish had to make its own derakh (path).

They, these voices, are today more than relevant, since memories fade and the circumstances and reasons that brought about the changes are too easily forgotten. But they shouldn’t be. This interview was conducted in New York’s Central Park by Abraham Tabachnick in 1955, more than 60 years ago. This digitized recording is part of the Frances Brandt Online Yiddish Audio Library of the Yiddish Book Center. The original recordings are from the collection of the Jewish Public Library of Montreal.

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