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The golden time in jewish history during the yiddish literature

YIVO Archival Resources

Translation 1898—1937Yiddish literary scholar and critic. Maks Erik Zalmen Merkin was born in Sosnowiec to a well-to-do family and received a Jewish and general education in Russian and Polish schools.

In 1921, he completed Polish military service and began studying law. In the years 1922—1923 and 1925—1926, he taught Yiddish literature and Polish studies at Yiddish high schools in Vilna.

Old Yiddish literature

In 1918, Erik began to publish articles in Yiddish about Yiddish literature, contemporary European writers, and issues concerning literature in general. His first book, Konstruktsye-shtudyen lit. From the mid-1920s, Erik researched mainly old Yiddish literature up to the end of the eighteenth centurya topic that led to his most substantial contributions to the field of Yiddish studies. Fun di eltste tsaytn biz der haskole-tkufe History of Yiddish Literature: From Earliest Times to the Haskalah Period; 1928.

This latter work was the first attempt at a synthetic history of older Yiddish literature. In order to study the relevant materials firsthand, Erik took a lengthy trip to the libraries of Western Europe. His hypothesis—that there indeed existed a Jewish shpilman—garnered criticism even during his own time and has been refuted in more recent studies.

In 1929, Erik settled in the Soviet Union. He shared the belief that had captivated a part of the radical Jewish intelligentsia that modern Yiddish culture would flourish there. He had first settled in Minskbut because of the dogmatic atmosphere prevalent in local Yiddish cultural circles, he moved to Kiev in 1932.

Yiddish literature

In both cities he was a leader in the local Jewish research institutions and taught Yiddish and world literature at local Jewish institutes of higher learning.

Due to political conditions in the Soviet Union, Erik had to almost completely renounce his scholarly interest in old Yiddish literature. He concentrated instead on the Haskalah period, a field palatable to Soviet ideology and in which he became quite productive.

Among his most significant texts in that area are the volumes he edited, Di komedyes fun der berliner ufklerung The Comedies of the Berlin Enlightenment; 1933 and Geklibene verk Selected Works by Shloyme Ettinger 1935. In collaboration with Ayzik Rozentsvayg, he also wrote the textbook Di yidishe literatur in 19tn yorhundert Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century; 1935.

Erik explored modern Yiddish literature as well, writing a book about Sholem Asch 1931 and producing scholarly articles about Sholem Aleichem and other Yiddish writers.

Erik fell victim to the first wave of persecution of Jewish cultural figures in the Soviet Union.

  1. The most popular of all Yiddish writers, Sholem Aleichem took up the cause of modern Yiddish literature where Abramovitsh left off.
  2. When the novel opens, its main character has already died of uncertain causes; his friend returns to the shtetl and tries to understand his death.
  3. He moved to Palestine in 1946, studied theatre in Tel Aviv, and performed as a pantomime artist. The anthology Found Treasures 1994 provides a selection of short fiction by many significant women authors, including Rikudah Potash, Fradel Schtok, and Yente Serdatzky.

He was arrested in 1936 and exiled to a camp, where he died in 1937. Tsinberg, Kultur-historishe shtudyes New York, 1949pp.