2016 Pakn Treger Translation Issue

An Anthology of Newly Translated Yiddish Works

Published: Spring 2016

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The 2016 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:


The translation theorist Lawrence Venuti closes his short essay “How to Read a Translation” on a note of defiance: Don’t take one translation of a foreign literature to be representative of the language, he tells us. Compare the translation to other translations from the same language.

Venuti’s point is both political and moral. We cannot really understand a foreign culture by reading a single novel; the perspective of an individual writer will always be slanted. We can only start to understand other cultures when we turn a solitary voice into a polyphony.

The same is true when we set out to learn more about our own heritage. There was never any one Yiddish. Yiddish and Yiddish literary style varied widely. Yiddish literature absorbed different colors as it zigzagged the globe, encountered different people, lived under different politics.

With that in mind, we’ve built this translation issue as a kind of journey. Through the stories, poems, and essays, we move from Israel to the Soviet Union, to New York, to Vilna, and to the world of the fairy tale. We also take an extended trip through Warsaw and see the center of its Jewish life and its slums. We swim in the Vistula and meet the struggling intellectual in his garret. We hear the past’s echo: the writer of one story is a character in another.

Each story or poem is lovingly translated, and wonderful to read on its own. Together they become something more.

Eitan Kensky
Director of Collections Initiatives

Aaron Lansky Editor
Lisa Newman Executive Editor
Maureen Turner Managing Editor
Eitan Kensky Translation Editor
Michael Yashinsky Translation Managing Editor
Greg Lauzon Copy Editor
Alexander Isley Inc. Art Direction and Design
Gérard DuBois Cover Illustration
Bill Russell Interior Illustrations

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. 

"'From Eternity to Eternity': Thoughts and Considerations in Honor of Passover"
An essay on historical memory and national identity, by the Yiddish critic Moyshe Shtarkman

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"Mr. Friedkin and Shoshana: Wandering Souls on the Lower East Side"
Joseph Opatoshu's take on the tormented personal life of a young Hebrew teacher in New York

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"Coney Island": A Dadaist Sound Poem by Victor Packer
The sounds of 1930s Coney Island come alive in this brilliant radio poem, newly transcribed and digitized from an acetate disc.


"On the Landing"
A story of tension and intensity, from the writer Yenta Mash. (Photo of the author courtesy of the Yiddish Forward.)

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"You Have Not Betrayed Me Since the Day We Met" and "You Olive Tree in the Night"

Two poems from Avrom Sutzkever's "Diary" translated by Maia Evrona. Illustration is one of Sutzkever's self-portraits from this volume.

A Yiddish typewriter

"In Which I Hate It and Can’t Stand It and Don’t Want to and Have No Patience at All"

Der Tunkeler lists his top pet peeves. We suspect you might share some with him. Translated by Ri Turner.

Handwritten letters in Yiddish and English


An epistolary romance with a twist, by H. D. Nomberg, translated by Daniel Kennedy

Portrait of the writer, Froyim Kaganovski

"Blind Folye"

The story of Samson and Delilah, if its setting were the streets of Warsaw, and Samson were a well-built poultry dealer. By Froyim Kaganovski, translated by Beverly Bracha Weingrod

"Old Town"

By photographer-novelist Alter Kacyzne, a photograph-in-words of Warsaw in the early twentieth century. Translated by Mandy Cohen and Michael Casper.

A boat on the lake at Trakai, Lithuania, with the town's castle in the background.

An Excerpt from "Once Upon a Time, Vilna"

A childhood romance before the war, and an attempt to recapture it afterwards. By Abraham Karpinowitz, translated by Helen Mintz. In the photograph, the lake at Trakai, Lithuania, with the famous castle in the distance.

"To a Fellow Writer" and "Shloyme Mikhoels"

Two poems, inspired by revered Yiddish artists who were themselves friends of the poet, Rokhl Korn. Translated by Seymour Levitan. Illustration from the volume of poetry Af der sharf fun a rege (The Cutting Edge of the Moment).

"The Destiny of a Poem"

By Itzik Manger, translated by Murray Citron. The poet on his poetry, and its tragic effect. Illustration from 1954's Don't Forget—Don't Forgive! Upon the 11th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

"The Blind Man"

A village parable from the often-political writer Itsik Kipnis, translated by Joshua Snider. Illustration from this story, as published in the volume A ber iz gefloygn (A Bear Took Flight).


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