Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, Jul 11, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 256 pages
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    In interwar and post-Holocaust New York, Yiddish autobiographers responded to the upheaval of modern Jewish life in ways that combined artistic innovation with commemoration for a world that is no more. Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers is the first comprehensive study of the autobiographical genre in Yiddish literature. Jan Schwarz offers portraits of seven major Yiddish writers, showing the writer's struggles to shape the multiple identities of their ruptured lives in autobiographical fiction. This analysis of Yiddish life-writing includes discussions of literary representation, self and collectivity, and memory in modern Jewish literature.
    Schwarz shows how Yiddish autobiographical fiction fuses novelistic elements and memoiristic truthfulness in ways that also characterize Jewish life-writing in English and Hebrew. His accessible style, biographical sketches, glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish words, and careful survey of notable texts takes readers on an incomparable journey through modern Yiddish literature.

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Part I The Classical Trio
Part II In America
Part III After the Holocaust

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Page 3 - Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.
Page 8 - I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I shall portray will be myself.
Page 8 - Autobiography, then, is not a genre or a mode, but a figure of reading or of understanding that occurs, to some degree, in all texts. The autobiographical moment happens as an alignment between the two subjects involved in the process of reading in which they determine each other by mutual reflexive substitution.
Page vii - Neither in environment nor in heredity can I find the exact instrument that fashioned me...
Page 11 - Hardly any form is alien to it. Historical record of achievements, imaginary forensic addresses or rhetorical declamations, systematic or epigrammatic description of character, lyrical poetry, prayer, soliloquy, confessions, letters, literary portraiture, family chronicle and court memoirs, narrative whether purely factual or with a purpose, explanatory or fictional, novel and biography in their various styles, epic and even drama — all these forms have been made use of by autobiographers ; and...

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About the author (2005)

Jan Schwarz is lecturer in the department of German at Northwestern University and lecturer in the Committee on Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago.

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