Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 28

Jewish Writing in Poland
Edited by Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, Antony Polonsky & Sławomir Jacek Żurek

Since the Enlightenment, the cultural creativity of Polish Jews has found trilingual expression—in Yiddish, Hebrew, and increasingly in Polish—but under communism the mutual and dynamic interaction between the cultural systems was little studied. This collection is the first to examine Jewish literatures in Poland from the point of view of both linguistic and geographical diversity. The emphasis here is on the interwar years, but earlier and later material is also included.

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Since the Enlightenment, the cultural creativity of Polish Jews has found expression not only in Hebrew and Yiddish, but increasingly in Polish. There has been mutual and dynamic interaction between the cultural systems, but until the end of communism the trilingual Jewish culture of Poland was little studied. In this volume, scholars from Poland, the United States, Israel, Italy, and Argentina investigate writers from across this spectrum and consider how they saw their Jewish (and sometimes Polish) identity, and what they thought of the authors in the other linguistic or cultural camps. Together their essays constitute the first examination of Jewish literatures in Poland from the point of view of both linguistic and geographical diversity. The interwar years serve as the reference point, but material on the period before the First World War and after 1945 is also included.

The volume comprises six sections. There is new research on Jewish literature in Polish, including discussions of less widely known works by Janusz Korczak and Julian Stryjkowski. Polish–Yiddish–Hebrew literary contacts are then reviewed, with important pieces on Y. L. Peretz’s early work, the translation of Hayim Nahman Bialik’s poetry into Polish, the influence of Polish writers on Sholem Asch’s early plays, and the reception of Yosef Opatoshu’s novels in interwar Poland. The next section explores the images of Poles and Poland in the work of Jewish writers and of Jews in the work of Polish authors, for instance in the work of the Hebrew Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon and the Polish writer Stanisław Vincenz. The subsequent section looks at avant-garde art and modern ideologies, with discussions of Bruno Schulz’s graphic works and why communism appealed to some Jewish writers. Discussion then moves to questions of identity, with a special focus on Julian Tuwim, one of the greatest Polish poets, an assimilated Jew attacked by Polish nationalists on the one hand and Yiddishists on the other. The last group of essays in the collection looks at different ‘exiles’, understood both literally and metaphorically and encompassing works created in Poland, Israel, and Argentina.

In spite of this wide range of themes, the coverage of the topic is not exhaustive: there are still very few studies of Polish–Hebrew literary contacts, and although more has been written about Yiddish writers in Poland there are still areas requiring a comparative perspective. This is a major study of topics which have rarely been discussed in English, especially Jewish literature written in Polish. The articles should appeal to all students of literature, and particularly to those interested in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew creativity understood as a rich cultural polysystem.

About the editors

Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska is Professor of Comparative Literature at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. From 2000 to 2011 she was the head of the Centre for Jewish Studies. She is the author of Polska Isaaca Bashevisa Singera: Rozstanie i powrót (1994); Odcienie tożsamości: Literatura żydowska jako zjawisko wielojęzyczne (2004); and Kazimierz vel Kuzmir: Miasteczko różnych snów (2006). She is the co-editor, with Antony Polonsky, of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (2001); and the co-editor of Tam był kiedyś mój dom…: Księgi pamięci gmin żydowskich (2009) and Jewish Presence in Absence: The Aftermath of the Holocaust in Poland, 1944 2010 (2014). In 2004 she received the Jan Karski and Pola Nireńska Award for research in the field of Yiddish.

Eugenia Prokop-Janiec is a professor in the Department of Literary Anthropology and Cultural Studies of the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She specializes in the history of modern literature and literary criticism, literary ethnology, Polish Jewish literature, and Polish-Jewish cultural and literary contacts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is the author of Polish-Jewish Literature in the Interwar Years (2003), the English version of Międzywojenna literatura polsko-żydowska jako zjawisko kulturowe i artystyczne (1992), and of Pogranicze polsko-żydowskie: Topografie i teksty (2013). She is the editor of the anthology Międzywojenna poezja polsko-żydowska (1996), the co-editor of Teatr żydowski w Krakowie: Studia i materiały (1995), and a contributor to scholarly journals and collective volumes in Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Romania, the United States, and Israel.

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. He is the author of Politics in Independent Poland, 1921 1939 (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question, 1941 45 (1976); co-author of The History of Poland since 1863 (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981); and co-editor of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (2001) and The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (2004). His most recent work is The Jews in Poland and Russia, i: 1350--1881; ii: 1881--1914; iii: 1914--2008 (2009 12), published in 2013 in an abridged version as The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History.

Sławomir Jacek Żurek is a professor and head of the Centre for the Study of Polish Jewish Literature at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. He is the author of numerous academic articles and books, including ‘…lotny trud półistnienia’: O motywach judaistycznych w poezji Arnolda Słuckiego (1999); Synowie księżyca: Zapisy poetyckie Aleksandra Wata i Henryka Grynberga w świetle tradycji i teologii żydowskiej (2004); Z pogranicza: Szkice o literaturze polsko-żydowskiej (2008), translated into English as From the Borderland: Essays on Polish-Jewish Literature (2008); Zastygłe w polszczyźnie: Szkice o świętach w poezji polsko-żydowskiej dwudziestolecia międzywojennego (2011); and, with Karolina Famulska-Ciesielska, Literatura polska w Izraelu: Leksykon (2012). He is a member of the Polish Society for Jewish Studies, the Council of the Polish Episcopate’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, and the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, and has held a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

About the contributors

Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Professor of Comparative Literature, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin
Maria Antosik-Piela, Department of Polish Language and Literature, University of Warsaw
Dorota Burda-Fischer, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Jewish History, University of Haifa
Nathan Cohen, Associate Professor, Centre for Yiddish Studies, Bar-Ilan University
Ofer Dynes, Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies
Karolina Famulska-Ciesielska, freelance researcher, Poland
Ellen Kellman, Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University
Zuzanna Kołodziejska, Department of Polish Language and Literature, University of Warsaw
Ber Kotlerman, Associate Professor, Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies, Bar-Ilan University
Anna Kuligowska-Korzeniewska, historian of theatre; professor emerita, Łódż University and Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy, Warsaw
Aviv Livnat, lecturer, Tel Aviv University and Bezalel Academy of Art
Piotr Matywiecki, poet, essayist, and anthropologist
Alina Molisak, Senior Lecturer, Department of Twentieth-Century Polish Literature, University of Warsaw
Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, Assistant Professor, Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
Władysław Panas, literary historian and theoretician; late Professor, Department of Polish, Catholic University of Lublin
Ireneusz Piekarski, Assistant Professor, Department of Polish, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, Professor, Department of Literary Anthropology and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Polish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Laura Quercioli Mincer, Associate Professor of Polish Literature, University of Genoa
Gil Ribak, Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and History, Oberlin College
Shoshana Ronen, Professor, Head of Department of Hebrew Studies, University of Warsaw
Maxim D. Shrayer, Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies, Boston College
Dariusz Konrad Sikorski, Head of Department of Social and Culture Communication, University of Gdańsk
Perla Sneh, Professor, National University of Tres de Febrero, Argentina, Senior Researcher, Centre for Genocide Studies
Monika Szabłowska-Zaremba, Assistant Professor, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota, columnist and assistant editor, Jewish bimonthly Midrasz
Karolina Szymaniak, Assistant Professor, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
Miriam Udel, Assistant Professor of German Studies and Jewish Studies, Emory University
Karen Underhill, Assistant Professor of Polish Literature and Polish-Jewish Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Bożena Wojnowska, former researcher, Institute of Literary Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
Marzena Zawanowska, Assistant Professor, Department of Hebrew Studies, University of Warsaw
Sławomir Jacek Żurek, Professor and Head of Centre for the Study of Polish Jewish Literature, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska and Eugenia Prokop-Janiec


The Writing and the Wound: On Polish Jewish Literature
Władysław Panas

Ethical Concepts in the Interwar Dispute in the Press on Jewish Culture
Dariusz Konrad Sikorski

‘Mr Nossig’s Latest Transformation’, or, Alfred Nossig as a Writer
Maria Antosik-Piela

Janusz Korczak’s Midrash: Dzieci Biblii: Mojżesz
Bożena Wojnowska

Czesława Rosenblattowa’s Works as an Example of Women’s Integrationist Literature
Zuzanna Kołodziejska

The Long Path to Becoming a Writer; Julian Stryjkowski as Translator and Reviewer
Ireneusz Piekarski


Polish Whiskers and the Jewish Tongue: On Y. L. Peretz Not Becoming a Polish Writer
Ofer Dynes

Sholem Asch’s Polish-Language Theatrical Debut
Anna Kuligowska-Korzeniewska

Yehoshua Ozjasz Thon on the Revival of Hebrew Literature: From Revolutionism to a Moderate Conservatism
Shoshana Ronen

Speaking Back: On Some Aspects of the Reception of Polish Literature in Yiddish Literary Criticism
Karolina Szymaniak

Reading Polish among Young Jewish People
Nathan Cohen

Hayim Nahman Bialik and Shlomo Dykman: Polish–Jewish Literary Encounters in the Inter-War Period
Marzena Zawanowska

Reading Opatoshu in the Years 1918–1939: The Polish Perspective
Eugenia Prokop-Janiec


Between Germany and Russia: Images of Poles and the Ensuing Cultural Trajectories among Yiddish and Hebrew Writers between 1863 and the First World War
Gil Ribak

Romanticization and Criticism in Agnon’s Poland Stories: Polish Jewry as an Archetype of a Jewish Community in the Exile
Ber Kotlerman

A Hasid among the Goyim: Jewish Themes in Stanisław Vincenz’s Na wysokiej połoninie
Dorota Burda-Fischer


Sefirot, Wanderings, and Superstructures: Futurism in the Polish Yiddish Arena
Aviv Livnat

When Narration is the Only Salvation: Yisroel Rabon’s Modernist Picaresque
Miriam Udel

'What Have You Done with the Book?': The Exegetical 'Encounter' in Bruno Schulz’s Graphic Works
Karen Underhill

Yiddish Form, Communist Content: Jewish Communist Writers in Warsaw in the 1930s
Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov

The Neva Ever New: Depictions of the Soviet Union in the Work of Stanisław Wygodzki
Monika Szabłowska-Zaremba


Julian Tuwim’s Jewish Theatre
Piotr Matywiecki

Jewish Jews on Tuwim
Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota

The Descendant of Rashi in Lubyanka: The Metaphysical Identity Transformations of Aleksander Wat in Mój wiek

Laura Quercioli Mincer

‘Judaizm jako los’: On the Essay by Bogdan Wojdowski
Alina Molisak


Goles Varshe (Exile in Warsaw): The Kultur-Lige in Poland, 1921–1924
Ellen Kellman

From Tyszowce to Tel Aviv: The Journalism of Arnold Słucki in Israel’s Polish Press
Sławomir Jacek Żurek

Authors Writing in Polish in Israel
Karolina Famulska-Ciesielska

Polin Down South: Among Mysteries and Silences. On Polish Jewish Literary Legacies in Argentina
Perla Sneh

Pawel Antokolsky as a Witness to the Shoah in Ukraine and Poland
Maxim D. Shrayer

Notes on the Contributors