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The World According to Itzik

The World According to Itzik: Selected Poetry and Prose

Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The World According to Itzik
    Book Description:

    In the years between 1929 and 1939, when Itzik Manger wrote most of the poetry and fiction that made him famous, his name among Yiddish readers was a household word. Called the Shelley of Yiddish, he was characterized as being "drunk with talent." This book-the first full-length anthology of Manger's work-displays the full range of his genius in poetry, fiction, and criticism.The book begins with an extensive historical, biographical, and literary-critical introduction to Manger's work. There are then excerpts from a novel,The Book of Paradise,three short stories, autobiographical essays, critical essays, and finally, Manger's magnificent poetry-ballads, bible poems, personal lyrics, and the Megilla Songs. These works, which have the patina of myths acquired ages ago, also offer modern psychological insight and irrepressible humor. With Manger we make the leap into the Jewish twentieth century, as he recreates the past in all its layered expressiveness and interprets it with modernist sensibilities.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12991-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
    (pp. x-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xlvi)

    In modern Yiddish literature, what often seems naive proves to be extremely sophisticated. Poets of folklike verse are revealed to be consummate craftsmen and the comic writers are invariably the most deadly serious. Proofs of this paradox are the fables-in-verse of Eliezer Steinbarg (1880–1932) and the whole comic oeuvre of Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916). Among a somewhat younger generation of writers, however, only one created a corpus of ballads and Bible poems so seamless that they might have been written by the anonymous “folk”; a body of autobiographical fiction so innocent and playful as to make the Jewish child...

  5. Poetry

    • Itzik’s Midrash
      (pp. 3-29)

      The poems gathered in this book are a sort of mischievous toying with the gray beards of the Patriarchs and the head-shawl corners of the Matriarchs.

      A sort of intermezzo on the way to an elevated balladic vision.

      The alert reader will recognize that the landscape in which these biblical figures move is not Canaanitish but Slavic. I was thinking of eastern Galicia.

      That landscape, with its roadside willows, its vineyards, and its strange hushed twilights, has vibrated in my mind from the time of my earliest childhood. It was framed in that landscape that my father, as a wandering...

    • Songs of the Megillah
      (pp. 30-71)

      The poems gathered in this little book are once again a kind of mischief-making on the model of Purim* players in every age.

      In this little book is retold the lovely old story of Queen Esther, who, together with her uncle Mordecai, set themselves energetically against wicked Haman, whom, finally, they vanquished. May their merit sustain us, now and forever,amen, selah.

      True, the story is told here a bit differently. The official authors of the Megillah,* for example, have kept silent about the existence of such a significant figure as the tailor lad Fastrigosso, though his despairing love for...

    • Ballads
      (pp. 72-89)
    • Occasional Poems
      (pp. 90-108)
  6. Prose

    • Autobiographical Episodes
      (pp. 111-134)

      We lived for some little time in Kolomey. I can’t remember how long. But I have many memories of those early years. Much of what I remember has been turned into verse. And certain specific memories have been transformed into tales. Kolomey, for me, was always a town of poetic magic.

      It was in Kolomey that I bought a whip with a red tassel on it. It never occurred to me to buy a horse. Every stick, every broom became an instant horse for me. And even the garden bench that could not be budged from its place was a...

    • Fiction
      (pp. 135-224)

      The time that I spent in Paradise was the most beautiful of my life. To this moment, my heart aches and I get tears in my eyes when I remember those happy days.

      Often I close my eyes and live again those splendid years, years that will never return—unless the Messiah should come.

      In these dreaming moments, I even forget that my wings were shorn before I was sent down to this world. I spread my arms, and I try to fly . . . . Only when I have fallen to the ground and feel a sharp pain...

    • Essays
      (pp. 225-244)


      Certainly you were not expecting such a miniature literary weekly as this one. Raised on journals with an endless number of pages and little content, we now trumpet reform. With measured, essential words we will take the measure of modern Jewish literature, modern Jewish theater, and modern Jewish art and their relationship to the world. There and back, beside the cradle of our project, there stands the shadow of Don Quixote, the father of all illusions. May his accumulated merits stand by us.Amen, selah.

      Our program: First of all, to pop the lice loudly that have crammed and...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 245-250)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 251-251)