David Bergelson: From Modernism to Socialist Realism

Overview

Among the finest prose stylists in Yiddish literature, David Bergelson (1884-1952) was caught up in many of the twentieth century’s most defining events. In 1909 he emerged as a pioneer of modernist prose, observing the slow decay of the Tsarist empire. In 1917 he welcomed the Revolution, but the bloodshed of the ensuing Civil War and the dogmatism of the Bolsheviks drove him to emigration. For more than a decade (1921-1934), he lived in Weimar Germany, travelling extensively in Europe and the United States. ...
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Overview

Among the finest prose stylists in Yiddish literature, David Bergelson (1884-1952) was caught up in many of the twentieth century’s most defining events. In 1909 he emerged as a pioneer of modernist prose, observing the slow decay of the Tsarist empire. In 1917 he welcomed the Revolution, but the bloodshed of the ensuing Civil War and the dogmatism of the Bolsheviks drove him to emigration. For more than a decade (1921-1934), he lived in Weimar Germany, travelling extensively in Europe and the United States. Shocked by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, disheartened by the decline of Yiddish culture in the West, and inspired by Soviet promises to create a Jewish republic, Bergelson became a Communist sympathiser and moved towards socialist realism. Returning to the Soviet Union after Hitler’s rise to power, Bergelson flourished in a state-sponsored cultural environment in which his work was widely read both in Yiddish and in Russian translation. After Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Bergelson became a prominent member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, writing extensively about the Holocaust. In the paranoia of the Cold War years, the Stalinist regime accused him of anti-Soviet activities and, after a secret military trial he was executed on 12 August 1952, his 68th birthday.

For years, critics have argued that Bergelson produced his best work before the Revolution, and afterwards largely wrote Communist propaganda. David Bergelson: From Modernism to Socialist Realism challenges this view by examining Bergelson’s entire oeuvre. The book argues that Bergelson continually reinvented himself as a writer, experimenting with style and narrative technique even under the most severe restrictions of Party dogma. With contributions from an international team of Bergelson experts, the volume offers a full-length biography, the first complete bibliography of Bergelson’s work, translations of two of his most influential programmatic articles, and a range of essays dealing with all periods of the writer’s life.

With the contributions:

Joseph Sherman — David Bergelson (1884–1952): A Biography
Lev Bergelson — Memories of My Father: The Early Years (1918–1934)
Daniela Mantovan — Language and Style in Nokh alemen (1913): Bergelson’s Debt to Flaubert
Kerstin Hoge — For Children and Adults Alike: Reading Bergelson’s ‘Children’s Stories’ (1914–1919) as Narratives of Identity Formation
Seth L. Wolitz — Yoysef Shor (1922): Between Two Worlds
Sasha Senderovich — In Search of Readership: Bergelson Among the Refugees (1928)
Mikhail Krutikov — Narrating the Revolution: From ‘Tsugvintn’ (1922) to Mides-hadin (1929)
Ellen Kellman — Uneasy Patronage: Bergelson’s Years at Forverts (1922–1926)
Gennady Estraikh — David Bergelson in and on America (1929–1949)
Ber Boris Kotlerman — ‘Why I am in Favour of Birobidzhan’: Bergelson’s Fateful Decision (1932)
Harriet Murav — Memory and Monument in Baym Dnyepr (1932–1940)
David Shneer — From Mourning to Vengeance: Bergelson’s Holocaust Journalism (1941–1945)
Jeffrey Veidlinger — ‘Du lebst, mayn folk’: Bergelson’s Play Prints Ruveni in Historical Context (1944–1947)
Joseph Sherman — ‘Jewish Nationalism’ in Bergelson’s Last Book (1947)
Roberta Saltzman — A Bibliography of David Bergelson’s Work in Yiddish and English
David Bergelson — Appendix A. Belles-lettres and the Social Order (1919)
David Bergelson — Appendix B. Three Centres (Characteristics) (1926)

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Editorial Reviews

Three Percent - Eric Dickens
A happy balance between text and context... everything from a close reading of his works to an examination of the literary, historical and cultural context in which those works were produced. This book is, in effect, more than the examination of the works of one author.
Modern Language Review, 104.1, January 2009, 297-99 - Hugh Denman
Once more the Legenda imprint brings us an exemplary collection of essays on Yiddish literature... A magisterial study of exceptional factual richness which will remain a major source-work on this topic for years to come.
Times Literary Supplement, 2 May 2008, 23 - Antony Polonsky
Bergelson was arrested early in 1949 and executed in August 1952. His work has largely fallen into oblivion... There is thus all the more reason to welcome this collection of essays. It includes a biographical study by [Joseph] Sherman and essays by various people on different aspects of Bergelson’s fiction, among them a fascinating account of conflicts with Abe Cahan, editor of Forverts.
H-Judaic - Anna Shternshis
The editors have done a remarkable job collecting essays that finally put Bergelson on the map of literary and historical scholarship. This is the necessary first step in assuring that the contribution made by this important Yiddish writer to the development of world’s literature does not remain unnoticed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781905981120
  • Publisher: Maney Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Series: Legenda Studies In Yiddish Series
  • Pages: 378
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents


Dedication     ix
Acknowledgements     x
List of Contributors     xii
List of Illustrations     xiv
Preface     1
David Bergelson (1884-1952): A Biography   Joseph Sherman     7
Memories of My Father: The Early Years (1918-1934)   Lev Bergelson     79
Language and Style in Nokh alemen (1913): Bergelson's Debt to Flaubert   Daniela Mantovan     89
For Children and Adults Alike: Reading Bergelson's 'Children's Stories' (1914-1919) as Narratives of Identity Formation   Kerstin Hoge     113
Yoysef Shor (1922): Between Two Worlds   Seth L. Wolitz     129
In Search of Readership: Bergelson Among the Refugees (1928)   Sasha Senderovich     150
Narrating the Revolution: From 'Tsugvintn' (1922) to Mides-hadin (1929)   Mikhail Krutikov     167
Uneasy Patronage: Bergelson's Years at Forverts (1922-1926)   Ellen Kellman     183
David Bergelson in and on America (1929-1949)   Gennady Estraikh     205
'Why I am in Favour of Birobidzhan': Bergelson's Fateful Decision (1932)   Boris Kotlerman     222
Memory and Monument in Baym Dnyepr (1932-1940)   Harriet Murav     236
From Mourning to Vengeance:Bergelson's Holocaust Journalism (1941-1945)   David Shneer     248
'Du lebst, mayn folk': Bergelson's Play Prints Ruveni in Historical Context (1944-1947)   Jeffrey Veidlinger     269
'Jewish Nationalism' in Bergelson's Last Book (1947)   Joseph Sherman     285
A Bibliography of David Bergelson's Work in Yiddish and English   Roberta Saltzman     306
Bergelson's Literary Theory
Belles-lettres and the Social Order (1919)     337
Three Centres (Characteristics) (1926)     347
Index     357
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