Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: LITERATURE: JEWISH in English

JEWISH: Yiddish. A sad note that coloured 1996 was the announcement by editor Avrom Sutskever that Di goldene keyt ("The Golden Chain"), the Yiddish world's premier literary journal, would cease publication. Historian David Fishman's engrossing Shaytlekh aroysgerisn fun fayer ("Pieces of Wood Pulled out of the Fire") brightened the scene, however, with its analysis of the priceless Yiddish volumes of every genre that had been discovered and preserved in Vilnius, Lithuania. Yoysef Bar-El penned an appreciative analysis of the writing of an important scholar, Di shire fun Yankev Fridman ("The Poetry of Yankev Fridman"). Yankl Nirenberg compiled a well-researched and documented memoir about the underground activities of the Jewish Bund in Poland's Lodz ghetto during World War II, Zikhroynes fun Lodzsher geto ("Memoirs of the Lodz Ghetto"). Elisheve Koyen-Tsedik's novel Farges-mikh-nisht ("Forget-me-not") presented an epic narrative describing a generation of Jewish idealists in the Soviet Union. Three well-crafted collections of short stories were published. Sixty tales in Tsvi Ayznman's Bleter fun a farsmalyetn pinkes ("Pages from a Charred Notebook") proved him once again to be the current master of the short story in Yiddish letters. Tsvi Kanar wrote affecting observations of the Holocaust in Opgegebn broyt ("Returned Bread"). Shlof nisht, Mameshi ("Don't Sleep, Mama Dear") included eight fascinating stories by one of Israel's most distinguished authors, Mordkhe Tsanin. The richest segment of Yiddish publishing continued to be poetry. Volumes appeared in France, Israel, and Ukraine. From Israel came Hadasa Rubin's delicate tapestry of lyrics, Rays nisht op di blum ("Don't Tear Up the Flower"). The father-and-son team of Yoysef Kerler and Boris Karlov published Shpigl-ksav ("Mirror-writing"). Infused with sly humour and thoughtful reflections, Yitskhak Niborski's Vi fun a pustn fas ("As Though out of an Empty Barrel") consisted of a medley of lyrics. The prolific Yankev Tsvi Shargel contributed poems and translations in Tsum eygenem shtern ("To My Own Star"). (THOMAS E. BIRD) PERSIAN In Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran, the environment for literary creativity deteriorated considerably in 1996. As the number and quality of works published locally dwindled, publishing in exile increased. In March 'Abbas Ma'rufi, an Iranian novelist, was forced to leave the country. In September bands of Hezbollah vigilantes raided several gatherings of writers, and in November Faraj Sarkuhi, a magazine editor, was arrested in Tehran. Partly as a result of such developments, the trend toward publishing politically safe books accelerated. After a hiatus of two decades The Persian Encyclopedia, known by the name of its originator as The Mosahab Encyclopedia, was completed. The third volume of Yahya Arianpur's Az Saba ta Nima ("From Saba to Nima") was published posthumously under the title Az Nima ta ruzegar-e ma ("From Nima to Our Time"). Also notable was Tajik scholar Rowshan Rahman's Afsanehha-ye Dari ("Dari Legends"). State-sponsored works, primarily serving as propaganda, appeared in abundance but met with limited popular acceptance. Women continued to rise in prominence. Fattaneh Hajseyyedjavadi's Bamdad-e khomar ("Morning Hangover"), a novel published late in 1995, had a total run of over 70,000 copies, only the second fictional work by an Iranian woman to have reached that level. Two other women residing outside Iran, both in Sweden, published noteworthy works. Shahrnush Parsipur's Khaterat-e zendan ("Prison Memoirs") became the first major prison narrative of the 20th century written by a woman, and Jila Mosa'ed's Pari-zadegan ("Born of the Fairies") became the author's first major work published in exile. The year marked the death of the novelist and short-story writer Ghazaleh 'Alizadeh. (AHMAD KARIMI-HAKKAK) PORTUGUESE Portuguese fiction had a vintage year in 1996. The number of novels published was not higher than in previous years, but the quality of work produced by well-known authors was outstanding. Alexandre Pinheiro Torres, a distinguished academic, completed a remarkable fresco of Portuguese society under the Salazar regime with the publication of A quarta invaso Francesa, a fascinating tale of intrigue that ends in a political assassination. The project started in 1977 with A nau de Quixib and developed into five novels depicting 50 years of contemporary Portuguese life. The Association of Portuguese Authors awarded the Great Prize for Fiction to Teolinda Gerso for her novel A casa da cabea de cavalo, a subtle tale of women's feelings as seen through three generations. In a remote and provincial town, where the presence of an outsider upsets the stability of daily life, women nurture their passions in silence, imposed by a patriarchal society that resists change. A clandestine language is invented between two lovers who have been tricked by paternal authority. Conventions are slowly eroded, and when freedom dawns on the people, they are emotional cripples. Jos Saramago published his long-awaited novel Ensaio sobre a cegueira, a hallucinatory tale that was also a dramatic warning on the ills of contemporary society. His characters and the place of action are nameless. Characters are known for the functions they perform, and the events described may have taken place anywhere and nowhere. A strange epidemic of blindness gradually strikes a whole community, sparing only the woman who witnesses it all. To avoid the spreading of the disease, the government sends soldiers to contain the blind in a ghetto. A group of bullies takes over and rules in an orgy of brutality and rape that tests human emotions beyond endurance. As inexplicably as the blindness had started, people begin to recover their eyesight, while the woman fears the moment when the disease might start again, making her one of its victims. It is a philosophical tale of feverish dramatic intensity on the moral blindness of humans and the perversities of their behaviour that seem to be leading to self-destruction. (L.S. REBELO)

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