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The Moscow Yiddish Theater: Art on Stage in the Time of Revolution

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Editorial Reviews

Dov-Ber Kerler
“Professor Benjamin Harshav’s exemplary book is a major contribution to learning and indeed teaching modern East European Yiddish culture through the rich prism of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater, one of its short-lived but immensely influential and lasting highlights.”—Dov-Ber Kerler, Indiana University
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
"Carefully curated and beautifully translated, this collection of manifestos, essays, plays, memoirs, programs, and criticism brings to life—with an immediacy that only primary sources can provide—the otherwise ephemeral performances of the brilliant Moscow Yiddish Art Theater and the contentious world in which they were created, experienced, debated, and remembered."—Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
Jonathan Wilson
"Benjamin Harshav has produced an indispensable work for scholars and general readers. The Moscow Yiddish Theater, his restoration through essays and documents of a vital, energetic and haunted lost world, is a compelling tribute to the culture it describes."—Jonathan Wilson, author of Marc Chagall
Edward Asner
"Benjamin and Barbara Harshav have assembled a remarkable treasure-trove about a unique Yiddish, cultural institution—a revolutionary, unorthodox theater—a compendium of historic photographs, rare brochures and program notes, two short pieced by Sholem Aleichem, distinguished, archival documents, prominent eyewitness diaries and short essays in Yiddish, Russian, Hebrew, French, German, English, Spanish, and Catalan by such luminaries as Stanislavky, Vakhtangov, Gorky, Chagall, Chaliapin, Toller, Mikhoels, Ben Gurion, Granovsky, and Yehoash. They include an extensive bibliography, a glossary of names, notes and commentaries. Written for the mayvinem and the serious scholar, it captures this innovative unorthodox stage art, and is a delightful read for everyone."—Edward Asner
Barbara Mann
"At last, in their own words! The colorful voices and vibrant players of the Moscow Yiddish Theater come to life in this invaluable contribution to the study of modern Jewish culture. Combining rare first-hand accounts with original source material and meticulous scholarship, Harshav's work lays the foundation for a new appreciation of the Yiddish theater—born of the modernist moment in its Jewish incarnation, home to Marc Chagall and Sholem Aleichem, and the lesser-known figures of Sh. Mikhoels and Abram Efros. This is a welcome and engrossing collection, much of which appears here for the first time in English translation."—Barbara Mann, author of A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space
Jewish Standard - Curt Leviant
"A valuable and imaginatively presented work, with a plethora of fascinating first-hand source documents."—Curt Leviant, Jewish Standard
Library Journal

The Moscow Yiddish Theater began with a desire to present drama in the lingua franca (as opposed to Hebrew, the language of prayer) of the Jews in the Ukraine's Pale of Settlement. It was born in the atmosphere of immediate postrevolutionary Russia; was nurtured by a brief, intense collaboration between its founder, director Alexander Granovsky, and artist Marc Chagall; flourished for an instant; and then ended in the miasmas of the Stalinist state of the 1940s. Harshav (comparative literature, Yale Univ.), through a spare and unsentimental style, produces in the reader both a deep sense of sorrow for the loss of this theater and art form and a profound sense of wonder that it existed at all. He includes many writings from participants and critics of the time that have never before been published in English (he and his wife, Barbara, translated these documents). Illustrations take up nearly a quarter of the book, but they were not included in the review copy. Recommended for large and for graduate library collections.
—Larry Schwartz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300115130
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Harshav is professor emeritus of comparative literature and J. & H. Blaustein Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature, Yale University, and professor emeritus of literary theory, Tel Aviv University. He lives in North Haven, CT.

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