Sutzkever Essential Prose

By Avrom Sutzkever, translated by Zackary Sholem Berger


Sutzkever Essential Prose brings to light for English readers the largely unknown prose of a seminal Yiddish poet. Avrom Sutzkever wrote the works in this volume over a span of more than 30 years, blurring the lines between fiction, memoir, and poetry; between real and imagined; between memory and metaphor. Now, through Zackary Sholem Berger’s translations, English readers can enter into an array of compelling, haunting scenes drawn from Sutzkever's vast imagination and from the unique life he lived.

About the Author and Translator

Avrom Sutzkever (1913–2010) spent his childhood in Siberia and emerged as a writer in the burgeoning literary circles of Jewish Vilna. In the Vilna Ghetto, he wrote poetry as a means of survival. As a member of what became known as the Paper Brigade, he helped to save Jewish cultural treasures from Nazi destruction. After the war, he became an influential advocate and activist for Yiddish culture, as well as a symbol of resistance through acts such as his testimony at the Nuremberg trials. He founded the Yiddish literary journal Di goldene keyt (The Golden Chain) and in 1985 received the Israel Prize for Yiddish literature.

Zackary Sholem Berger is a multilingual poet and translator, and he was a 2013 Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellow. A doctor by profession, he lives in Baltimore with his Yiddish-speaking family.

What the Critics Say

"Sutzkever Essential Prose, magnificently translated by Zackary Sholem Berger, is that rare thing — a truly necessary book."
—Aviya Kushner, author of The Grammar of God (read the full review in the Forward)

"It’s easy to see these stories, which use the surreal to understand the unreality of world events, on a continuum of fabulist Jewish writing that includes Franz Kafka and Bruno Schulz, as well as contemporary storytellers, such as Etgar Keret and Nathan Englander...A wondrous book of tales of lost worlds." 
—Kirkus (read the full review

“Every page of this book—marvelously translated by Zackary Sholem Berger—trembles with smoldering vitality, and every page persuades us that the angel of prose confided in Sutzkever as faithfully as the angel of poetry. Readers of this book will not fail to appreciate how Sutzkever’s unconquered past—in Siberia, in Vilna during what he calls ‘the time of slaughter,’ and in Tel Aviv—bears on our present.”
—Benjamin Balint, author of Kafka’s Last Trial

“This book is a revelation, even for those who know Sutzkever as one of the great poets of the twentieth century, because it shows Sutzkever, for the first time in English, as a true master of prose. These riveting short stories, in Berger’s beautiful translation, cover vast territories, from Siberia to Vilna to Israel and beyond, into the worlds of memory, imagination, myth, and legend.”
—Shachar Pinsker, author of A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture

Listen to translator Zackary Sholem Berger on The Shmooze.

Watch the book launch event with Berger and Sutzkever scholar Justin Cammy.

Read a review of Sutzkever Essential Prose in Moment

Read a story from the collection published in Tablet.