Excellent Bio on S. Ansky- from Jewish Heritage Online
"In the Tavern", 1884, translated by Robert Szulkin
"The Sins of Youth", translated by Lucy Danidowicz, 1910
I know for sure if I had not entered the international book blog community years ago I would have never dreamed of reading Yiddish literature. Sometime back Yale University Press gave me the wonderful gift of all the books, eleven, in The Yale Yiddish Library. Among them were a collection of works by the famous dramatist, S. Ansky, best now recalled for his play, The Dybbuk, first produced in 1914 and still widely preformed.
Yiddish literature, a great deal of which was written in America, is a world class cultural treasure. (I recently acquired a fabulous 1500 page anthology, Yiddish Literature in America, 1870 to 2000, edited by Emmanuel Goldsmith and translated by Barnett Zumolf which will, I hope, greatly expand my erudition in Yiddish literature.).
Ansky grew up in what is now Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. The stories I am featuring today are set in the now lost culture of the shtel. They are not happy feel good stories, they depict the lives of the impoverished.
"In the Tavern" lets us see what goes on in a shtel tavern. The tavern is the social center of the Shtel. Sansky lets us see the business side of the tavern and the escape of the patrons into drunken oblivion. It is a very harsh look which has the complete feel of the truth.
"The Sins of Youth" centers on a young teacher. He has set up shop in a shtel he just moved to, tutoring a number of boys. He gets in trouble when he begins to teach literature besides religious studies. When there are rumors of a possible coming pogram, the shtel Rabbi says it is warning of God that this teacher must leave the community. In a chilling scene, the community members burn a mass of forbidden books.
The two short stories I am featuring today are both set in