Posts tagged shtetl.
In [Seth] Wolitz’s opinion, Chagall’s standout piece of graphic art appears in “Troyer” (“Grief,” or “Mourning”), an art book published in Kiev in 1922. A collaboration between Chagall and Yiddish poet Dovid Hofshteyn, “Troyer” is a cry of outrage against the ruthless destruction of Jewish shtetls in Ukraine during the Civil War pogroms of 1919 and 1920. Proceeds from sales benefited Jewish children orphaned in the pogroms.
The Chagall of “Troyer” is decidedly not the Chagall of floating lovers and errant violins. He depicts the murderous violence bitterly decried in Hofshteyn’s narrative poems, in images of swords, axes, mutilations and blood, done in spare graphics and representational Yiddish lettering. Most notable, according to Wolitz, is Chagall’s use of diagonal lines, characteristic of the suprematist school of art founded by his Russian rival, Kazimir Malevich. Suprematism represented the best of new Russian culture, but in “Troyer,” Chagall co-opted it to mock that culture and display its brutality. “This is protest in the highest style,” Wolitz said. He notes that Chagall never again used his art for polemic purposes. (via The Jewish Daily Forward)
Di Kupe. Poema (The Pile: A Poem) by Peretz Markish
Kiev: Kultur Lige, 1922.
Design: Chaikov, Iosef
“Markish’s most important poetic achievement at that point was his long poem Di kupe (The Heap; 1921 [Warsaw], 1922 [Kiev]). Its horrifying opening image is a pile of corpses laid out in the middle of the marketplace of a shtetl in Ukraine after a pogrom. The poet gives voice both to the unburied and to himself in a series of poetic monologues whose intent is to shock with their blasphemy while expressing the desire to freeze time in an apocalyptic desecration of God and death. The sharply expressionistic language and extensive use of Slavicisms create an ostensibly low stylistic register. At the same time, the poem features such classic stanza forms as the sonnet, a form well represented in Markish’s work in his later years. The assonant rhymes, which Markish introduced in Di kupe and in his other works from that period, became one of the hallmarks of his poetics.” (via YIVO)
“A Gutn Ovnt, Brayne / Good Night, Brayne” by Mikveh
The images in the song are stark, vivid, and we can’t turn away. We, like the neighbor, are called to witness the loneliness and to hear the desperate declarations. We see the shame, we witness the loss of control over the simple tasks of daily life, and we see a final image of descent — a battered body sinking to the street and lying still. How many women suffered behind the apartment doors of Warsaw and Krakow? How many women carried bruises in the shtetlekh, the towns of Poland and Lithuania, Russia and the Ukraine?
via “He Beat Me Black and Blue: Yiddish Songs of Family Violence, Part One” By Adrienne Cooper and Sarah Mina Gordon (The Jewish Daily Forward’s Arty Semite Blog)
From the Norton Jewish American Literature Anthology: “The most famous of [Mani Leib’s] ballads was Yingl tsingl khvat, a narrative about a boy who, stuck in the shtetl mud, persuades a nobleman to give him the magic ring and flying horse that allow him to escape and bring beauty—a snowstorm—to the world.”
Translation by Jeffrey Shandler (of the text in the images):
I have a story here to tell
To all my children – you as well.
Hush, dear friends, be very still –
Hear my story, if you will.
Jews are running everywhere,
Selling here and buying there,
Faces shining as they say,
“What a splendid market day!”
(Source number: AJHS PJ5129.B71513)
About Mani Leib:
From Encyclopedia Judaica: “Largely eschewing social concerns, he crafted formally unified poems that affirmed a belief in the ability of art to compensate for human suffering. His ‘sound poems’ drew renewed attention to the Yiddish language through their skillful use of alliteration and repetition.”
Submitted by David P. Rosenberg, Center for Jewish History.
On today’s Ekh Lyuli Lyuli, I’ll be exploring Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated; contemporary shtetl-fantasy; the appropriation, romanticization, and fetishization of Russian-Jewish stories and experiences; and satirical responses from real Russian Jews (like author Anya Ulinich)! Tune in to CFRC 101.9fm (streaming live on the web!) at 6pm EST.
Roman Vishniac (August 19, 1897 – January 22, 1990) was a Russian-American photographer, best known for capturing on film the culture of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. Roman Vishniac did not just want to preserve the memories of the Jews; he actively fought to increase awareness in the West of the worsening situation in Eastern Europe. “Through his photographs, he sought to alert the rest of the world to the horrors [of the Nazi persecution].”
Vishniac is best known for his dramatic photographs of poor and pious Jews in cities and shtetlach of Eastern Europe. He was first commissioned to take these pictures by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee as part of a fundraising initiative, but Vishniac took a personal interest in this photography. He traveled back and forth from Berlin to the ghettos of Russia, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania for years after he worked for the Committee.
Vishniac captured thousands of impoverished Jews on film, “[…] to preserve — in pictures, at least — a world that might soon cease to exist”.
Oh, and the photo is The Old Ghetto, Wilno, Poland, ca. 1935-38.