Per aspera ad astra!

Some months ago dr Lidia Głuchowska wrote here about Yiddishland; last week she wrote again about that topic – see Tel-Awiw. Today her next text about jewish avant-garde in Poland after 1918. And the next one, about Expressionist publication Zdrój on coming Monday.

Young Yiddish. Songs in word and image

Mir yunge, mir – a freylekhe tsezungene khalyastre
Mir geyen in an umbavustn veg,
In tife more-shkhoyredike teg
In nekht fun shrek:
Per aspera ad astra!

We young, we – a joyful, singing khalyastre –
We go an unknown way
In the deep days of melancholy
In the nights full of fear
Per aspera ad astra!

Ing_Idysz BraunerMoyshe Broderzon’s poem ‘Tsu di shtern’ (To the Stars) from the second issue of the Łódź magazine Yung-Idish. Lider in vort un tseykhenung (Young Yiddish. Songs in word and image) is in many respects representative of the entire periodical. It was written originally in Yiddish, a relic of a world that receded into the past with the Holocaust. Thanks to its emotive rhetoric it once appealed not only to readers in Łódź or Poland as a whole, but in most of Central Europe.

The style of the poem ‘Tsu di shtern’ published in Yung-Idish, is characteristic not only of texts from this first magazine of the Yiddish avant-garde, but of the entire literature of a community that survived the atrocities of World War I, and a history of pogroms and revolutions. The result was a literature less of beauty than of horror.

That the poem by Broderzon, a co-founder of the Yung-Idish group and magazine, also opened  the inaugural issue of the Warsaw almanac by Peretz Markish entitled Khalyastre  [Chaliastre] (The Gang) in 1922 symbolized the deliberate creation of a genealogy and the concerted efforts of the Yiddish avant-garde in Central and Eastern Europe and the USA. Warsaw thereby acquired the status of the European centre for Yiddish literature, with Paris and Berlin serving as its satellites.

In Khalyastre Broderzon’s text appeared next to an Expressionist linocut by Itzhak Brauner (Yitskhok/Vincent Broyner), artist connected with Ing-Idish. The avant-garde integration of word and image was best reflected in the Albatros almanac. In Yung-Idish there were more illustrations than texts, an unprecedented practice in the Jewish avant-garde periodicals in Eastern Europe or America which respected the biblical ban on images.

Yung-Idish was the mouthpiece of Yiddishism and the generation following haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment), which accompanied the nationalisation of modernism in Europe’s ‘new states’, established mainly after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The genesis of the periodical is reconstructed from different perspectives by literary and art historians, who see either the poet Broderzon or the artist Jankel Adler as assuming a dominant role. Adler arrived earlier to join his colleagues, later the founders of the Yung-Idish magazine and associated group, in exhibitions of the Towarzystwo Artystów i Zwolenników Sztuk (Society of Artists and Art Lovers) in 1918. In April the venue exhibited works by Dina Matus, V. Brauner, Bartschinsky (Barciński), and Szwarc, and in December by Adler. The group was subsequently joined by the women artists Ida Brauner, Zofia Gutentag, and Pola Lindenfeld and by Broderzon’s ideological opponent, the classicist Itzhak Katzenelson, as well as Yekheskl Moyshe Nayman (Neuman), Salomon Blat and Henryk Kohn.

The elegant graphic design and layout of Yung-Idish , the vertical format of its pages and the stylised Hebrew font rivet attention from the start. The evocative subtitle of the periodical, which in direct translation means ‘songs in word and image’, highlights the demand for a synergy of  media and deviates from the biblical prohibition of creating images, evoking at the same time a communication with the sacred in pointing to the mystical objective of art. Moreover, the presence of figurative art, subject to Expressionist deformation, points to its being the manifesto of a generation. For here a cultural code was re-defined and extended into the zone of the taboo, allowing Yung-Idish to express a programme merging the tradition of Yiddish and modernism.

More in the whole version of this essay (with footnotes) published as:

Lidia Głuchowska, Poznań and Łódź: National modernism and international avant-garde. Zdrój (1917-22); Yung-Yidish (1919); and Tel-Awiw (1919-21) (Kap. 51). In: Brooker, Peter/ Thacker, Andrew/ Weikop, Christian/ Bru, Sascha u. a.  (Hg.): Modernist Magazines: A Critical and Cultural History. Vol. 3, part 2: Europe 1880-1940, Oxford University Press 2013, S. 1208-1233.