All students of Soviet Yiddish interested in revising the lachrymose view face the problem of telling the end of the story of Soviet Yiddish culture. Instead of the conventional conclusion, Shneer offers a reflection on this central question in the afterward of his study. He points out that the centralization of control over culture in the early 1930s did not mean the end of Soviet Yiddish. Shneer also emphasizes the ambivalence with which the Jewish intelligentsia regarded their own project. The question may be raised, however, as to whether Shneer in some way ends up embracing the tragic view that he steadfastly repudiates throughout his narrative. The Jewish intelligentsia used state power to create Soviet Jewish culture, and according to Shneer, "state power was turned against them" (p. 219). This ironic outcome seems classically tragic--the tragic hero's advantage (the Yiddish writer's ability to use state power) always leads to his downfall. The question of how to frame the history of Soviet Yiddish remains open, and Shneer's work advances the problem significantly by making the story more complex. What makes his study stand out, aside from the superior quality of his writing, is his deft combination of archival research,
Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies – Purdue University Press
Published: Jul 12, 2006
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