The Discovery and Publication of Joseph Perl’s Yiddish Writings

The Discovery and Publication of Joseph Perl’s Yiddish Writings The attitude of Tarnopol satirist Joseph Perl (1773–1839) towards the Yiddish language has been discussed by a number of scholars. In particular, researchers have examined his views with regard to his most well-known satire, Sefer Megaleh temirin , which was printed in Hebrew in Vienna, 1819, with a partial Yiddish translation of the work appearing in Vilna, 1938. However, there remains much to be said concerning the creative process which guided Perl’s writing in Yiddish, as well as the later discovery and publication of his Yiddish works, both of which are chapters in the wider story of the development of Yiddish literature in the first half of the nineteenth century and the increasing scholarly interest in it at the outset of the twentieth century. This article briefly describes these multifaceted matters and then offers suggestions for the future study of Perl’s writing in particular, and maskilic Yiddish literature in general. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Zutot Brill

The Discovery and Publication of Joseph Perl’s Yiddish Writings

Zutot, Volume 13 (1): 55 – Mar 11, 2016

The Discovery and Publication of Joseph Perl’s Yiddish Writings


Similarly to many other maskilim of Eastern European origin, Joseph Perl viewed Yiddish as an inferior language, the province of the masses, favoring instead pure Hebrew or German. 1 In his satirical writings, Perl repeatedly emphasizes the distinction between ‘pure’ language on the one hand, and ‘garbled’ language on the other, the latter referring not only to substandard Hebrew but also to Yiddish. 2 However, many maskilim viewed Yiddish as a useful tool in achieving their educational and propagandistic goals. A hint that Perl too shared this opinion is to be found in the 1815 edition of his calendar, Luah ha-lev , 3 an almanac replete with useful and edifying information. However, when Menahem Mendel Lefin sought to print his Yiddish translation of Proverbs at the Tarnopol publishing house around this time, Perl did not initially support the enterprise. 4 Indeed, only one of Lefin’s biblical translations was published during his lifetime: Proverbs (1814). A letter sent to Lefin by one of his friends in 1817 may shed some light on the reason for this: the writer suggests, in a humorous tone, that Lefin should perhaps consider printing his translation of Ecclesiastes (which was never published) at the new Hasidic press in Medzhibizh. In this case, the letter continues, many great tzadikim of the generation would certainly add their approbations to the book, first and foremost Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel from Apta, a resident of the town who was involved in the printing of every book published by the press. 5 The reason for Perl’s reticence to publish Lefin’s Yiddish translation of Proverbs remains unknown, one possible explanation may be the biblical source of the text, for which Perl favored German rather than Yiddish. In any event, it was a great surprise when a significant corpus of Yiddish writings by Perl himself was discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century. Among the previously unknown works in this...
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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1571-7283
eISSN
1875-0214
D.O.I.
10.1163/18750214-12341274
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The attitude of Tarnopol satirist Joseph Perl (1773–1839) towards the Yiddish language has been discussed by a number of scholars. In particular, researchers have examined his views with regard to his most well-known satire, Sefer Megaleh temirin , which was printed in Hebrew in Vienna, 1819, with a partial Yiddish translation of the work appearing in Vilna, 1938. However, there remains much to be said concerning the creative process which guided Perl’s writing in Yiddish, as well as the later discovery and publication of his Yiddish works, both of which are chapters in the wider story of the development of Yiddish literature in the first half of the nineteenth century and the increasing scholarly interest in it at the outset of the twentieth century. This article briefly describes these multifaceted matters and then offers suggestions for the future study of Perl’s writing in particular, and maskilic Yiddish literature in general.

Journal

ZutotBrill

Published: Mar 11, 2016

Keywords: Yiddish; Jewish literature; Jewish studies; satire; parody; Hasidism; Jewish Enlightenment

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