2017 Pakn Treger Translation Issue

An Anthology of Newly Translated Yiddish Works

The 2017 Pakn Treger Translation Issue is available on our site here (all pieces are linked below) or you can download it as an e-book to your Kindle, iPad, or Nook:

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Introduction

Immediately after we published last year’s Pakn Treger Translation Issue, we received an email from one of our readers, a longtime member of the Yiddish Book Center. I’m paraphrasing, but the email went something like this: “Where were the women writers?”

I wrote back with an explanation: we had very few submissions of works by women. Many of the translators who submitted to the issue were women; indeed, the issue featured more female translators than male translators. But with very few submissions of texts written by women, it wasn’t surprising that we only published two (a poem and a story) in the last issue.

I realized while composing the email that the problem was larger than the small number of submissions. Women regularly translate writing by men, but men hardly ever seem to translate writing by women. As a sometime translator, I knew that I was guilty myself. Not once had I ever attempted to translate a poem or story or essay written by a woman. Later I attended a conference on gender and Yiddish literature. The scholars were equally divided between men and women, but almost all of the papers were about books written by men. Again I realized that the problem cut deeper. I could name many Yiddish women poets. I have even written about several. But I had read very few short stories or novels written in Yiddish by women, and I couldn’t even name more than a few. Their stories and novels were rarely on the syllabi of courses I’d taken, and I had rarely sought out their fiction to read for pleasure. If we wanted to encourage more scholarship about and more translation of books written by women, then we had to start at the beginning. We had to encourage the act of reading.

We are pleased to present this special Pakn Treger Translation Issue devoted to writing by women. It contains poetry, prose poetry, fiction, and memoir. The two short stories thrust the reader into the Soviet Union and the challenges of scarcity. They depict people struggling to live—to eat, to raise their children—as well as struggling to live as Jews. Likewise, the memoir describes the struggle to survive spiritually in the Warsaw Ghetto and the heroic efforts of librarians to distribute books to Jewish children. The poetry describes a wealth of personal experiences without shying away from communal responsibilities. In one, “Freeways,” the poet, in tones reminiscent of Holocaust poetry, describes the destruction of her neighborhood in Los Angeles, the destruction of her community, to make space for a highway.

This issue helps to address the relative scarcity of translations of Yiddish women writers. We also hope that it inspires the reader to continue reading works by women. There are several important translation anthologies of writing by women: Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers (1994), Arguing the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers (2007), and The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers (2013). You can find wonderful and challenging short stories by women in our Pakn Treger anthology The Abandoned Book and Other Yiddish Stories (2016). More on Yiddish women poets can also be found in Faith Jones’s article in the fall 2016 Pakn Treger, “Problematic, Fraught, Confusing, Paralyzing—and Fantastic,” about a 1927 anthology of Yiddish women’s poetry, and in Kathryn Hellerstein’s A Question of Tradition: Women Poets in Yiddish, 1586–1987 (2014).

Eitan Kensky
Director of Collections Initiatives

Aaron Lansky Editor
Lisa Newman Executive Editor
Eitan Kensky Translation Editor
Sadie Gold-Shapiro Translation Managing Editor
Greg Lauzon Copy Editor
Alexander Isley Inc. Art Direction and Design
Dan Page Cover Illustration
Bill Russell Interior Illustrations

This digital anthology has been made possible by Dr. Joann Halpern in memory of Ariel Halpern.”

Support for Pakn Treger comes from
The David Berg Foundation
The Joseph and Marion Brechner Fund for Jewish Cultural Reporting
The Charles Corfield Fund for Pakn Treger
The Kaplen Fund for Pakn Treger

The Mark Pinson Fund for Pakn Treger

Copyright in each translation is held by the translator.

 

"A Tale"
Poet Soreh Ayzn's take on the wild landscapes of love 

Dandelion fluff blows in the breeze on a brown background

" I Have Seen"
An brief ode to the wonders of each day, penned by Rosa Nevadovska

Oil painting of woman in woods

"Untitled" [From My Days (1952)]
The fifth poem of Bertha Kling's to have ever been translated into English 

An abstract picture of a grey stormy sky

"Does It Mean I Long for You?"
When love is not enough: Malka Locker's musings on a lingering loss

 Yiddish letters

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