2016 Pakn Treger Translation Issue

An Anthology of Newly Translated Yiddish Works

Cover of the 2016 Pakn Treger Translation Issue, depicting a tiny bird that has escaped from a cage which is built into an antique pen.

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

Yiddish books arrayed on a shelf.

"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

Yiddish writer Joseph Opatoshu lounging on a fur rug

"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.

Postcard of women in bathing suits "Romping on the Beach at Coney Island"

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

Yiddish writer Yenta Mash reading from her work and looking at the camera, in a yellow room, beside a table and chairs.


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