A new anthology gathers a century’s worth of fiction from a pre-eminent Yiddish publication.
When the Forward began publishing news, editorials, literature, and essays in 1897, it became a haven for writers and readers of Yiddish not only in New York, where it was published, but also in much of Europe. It has since become the longest-lasting Yiddish newspaper in the United States. A vibrant, and vital, new anthology gathers fiction from across the Forward’s long tenure. It seats luminaries like Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sholem Asch, and Abraham Cahan (longtime editor of the Forward) alongside lesser-known figures like B. Kovner, Yente Serdatsky, and Miriam Raskin. Many of the stories, like those of Lyala Kaufman (daughter of the illustrious Sholem Aleichem), are here translated into English for the first time. With sections organized around various themes, such as “Immigration and Its Discontents,” “Modern Times,” which looks at shifting social and sexual mores, and “World on Fire,” with fiction inspired by the two world wars, the Ukrainian War of Independence, and other violent tragedies, the anthology provides a wide-ranging, comprehensive depiction of a century’s worth of experiences by American and European Jews. Many of the stories take the form of slight character sketches, like Roshelle Weprinsky’s “Annie,” which describes a factory worker’s yearning to provide her husband and children with comforts they can’t afford. In Avrom Reyzen’s “Who Will Prevail?” a pompous young intellectual tries to win over his landlady’s daughter only to lose her to a more unequivocal tailor. Many of the stories have the edifying aspect of fables. If there is a certain sameness in narrative structure and literary style, this is forgivable, since Glinter, who edited the collection (and currently serves as deputy culture editor for the Forward) has selected such a diverse, wide-ranging group of writers. Women are well-represented here, as are the aging, the lonely, and the yearning.
This is a crucial act of preservation: by archiving and translating into English this wealth of fiction, Glinter has helped to ensure the legacy of the Forward and its many brilliant contributors.