Remembering I.L. Peretz, who died 100 years ago

I L Peretz

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the death of I.L. Peretz, perhaps the most important cultural figure in the history of modern Jewish literature. One of the three major writers of the first generation of Yiddish literature together with Sholem Aleichem and Mendele Moykher-Sforim, Peretz developed a distinctly Yiddish form of humanism that was strongly secular although very much grounded in traditional, religious sources. A proponent of Yiddish cultural autonomy, he felt that the culture of Yiddish could carry the Jewish people into modernity, serving as the main vehicle for their national culture, as Polish did for Poles. Essentially the founder of a school of Yiddish ethical humanism, his work not only reveals the tenuous world of Yiddish-speaking Jewry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but contains themes that are still relevant today. Using rare images from the archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, we take a look at the life of a Jewish literary giant.

View slideshow at Tablet Magazine

The I. L. Peretz Reader

Ruth Wisse (Editor)

Isaac Leybush Peretz (1852-1915) is an influential figure of modern Jewish culture. Born in Poland and dedicated to Yiddish culture, he recognized that Jews needed to adapt to their times while preserving their cultural heritage, and his writings explore the complexities inherent in the struggle between tradition and the desire for progress. This volume, which presents a memoir, poem, travelogue and 26 stories by Peretz, also provides a detailed essay about Peretz’s life by Ruth R. Wisse. This edition also includes Peretz’s great visionary drama “A Night in the Old Marketplace”, in a rhymed, performable translation by Hillel Halkin.

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