Tony Kushner on Yiddish Literature

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sholem Aleichem was one of the greatest humorists yiddish literature and his work became the basis for the musical "Fiddler on the Roof". This year marks the 100th anniversay of his book Wandering Stars, a love story set in the world of Yiddish Thaeter. Tony Kushner joins us along with translator Aliza Shervrin to talk about the book and Aleichem's legacy.

The Forward will be hosting "Tevyeday" at Symphony Space. It will be a celebrity-studded reading in Yiddish and English of Sholom Aleichem's novel "Wandering Stars" and a 150th birthday party for him!
Thursday March 19th
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway at 95th Street
Tickets info available here


Tony Kushner and Aliza Shervrin

Comments [5]

Henry Carrey from San Francisco

One last comment on translation . For me , the hardest part is not only understanding all the talmudic references in Hebrew/Aramaic and the jokes he is making with these - plus all the obscure Russian words not found in modern dictionaries - but understanding the context both of the Hebrew & religious expressions and the non-Jewish ones . ( BTW Aliza meant that SA and Olga spoke Russian to their children , not that SA or Olga grew up in Russian speaking families ) I wish we had annotated translations of works by Yiddish writers .

Feb. 12 2009 06:17 PM
Henry Carrey from San Francisco

Ironically they all died with a few years of each other, Peretz in 1915, SA in 1916, and Mendele ( S.Y. Abramovitch) in 1917. SA was known as a humorist ( as Aliza said "bittersweet" ) and was called by some the Yiddish Mark Twain as was already commented on . The way I heard it , when Twain was told this , he said , " No, I am the American Sholem Aleichem."

Feb. 12 2009 06:09 PM
Henry Carrey from San Francisco

Great show . Minor points . Leonard : it should be Sholem A-LEY-khem , not Al-E-khem as . As to your comments about history of Yiddish literature , although there were Yiddish writers before mid part of the 19th century , the first recognized great Yiddish writer was Mendele , then I.L. Peretz and then Sholem Aleichem . S.A said that if Mendele was the grandfather , he was the grandson . Although S.A. was the most popular among the general public , Peretz was the one all the writers flocked to . He was their role model .

Feb. 12 2009 05:59 PM

Just about to hear the clip on Aleichem, but remember hearing something about Mark Twain being the American Sholem Aleichem - and vice versa - is that right?

I've recently become a big fan of Isaac Babel's work (I know, not in Yiddish, but....) They recently republished Babels work in its entirely, and I think Cynthia Ozick wrote a great intro for it. She basically wrote that Babel lived, in his Communist trial, what Kafka had only imagined in his "The Trial." Pretty chilling. But his stories of riding with the Cossack army are unbelievable - the literary equivalent of the jump cut. So modern.

Feb. 12 2009 04:50 PM
markBrown from and

There is going to be a showing of the 1921 German silent film, "The Golem" at Kean University in NJ on March 11, with live orchestra accompanist

Feb. 12 2009 01:19 PM

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