"A New House"
By Rokhl Korn, translated by Seymour Levitan
Born at the tail of the nineteenth century in Galicia, Rokhl Korn’s (Rachel Häring Korn) literary career spanned some of the most tumultuous decades of Jewish life. While Korn initially fashioned herself a Polish writer, by the end of the First World War, she began to write and publish almost exclusively in Yiddish. By the outbreak of the Second World War, Korn was a well-known literary figure amongst Yiddish readers, having published two volumes of poetry, Dorf [Village] (1928) and Royter mon [Red Poppy] (1937), and a volume of short stories (Erd [Earth]) in 1936. These early works focused largely on the landscapes of Poland, and established Korn’s reputation as a keen observer of nature and place.
In 1941, Korn fled eastward to Uzbekistan and later to Moscow, seeking refuge from the Nazis in the Soviet Union. For the next eight years of her life, Korn was in motion; she would later refer to the writings from this part of her life as the navenad (wandering). After learning of the death of her family and many of those in her community, Korn moved with her daughter to Montreal and re-established herself once again as an integral figure in the Yiddish literary scene. In Montreal, Korn reflected on her time in Poland, exploring the jarring sense of separation and statelessness she felt in her new home.
Seymour Levitan's translation of "A New House" originally appeared in Pakn Treger 35 (Winter 2001), and was reprinted in 2017 in our anthology, The Abandoned Book and Other Yiddish Stories. In only a few short pages, it manages to explore central Korn themes: wandering, home, and the capacity of aesthetic creation.