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The Glatstein Chronicles by Jacob Glatstein {Excerpt}

The Glatstein Chronicles by Jacob Glatstein {Excerpt}

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
In 1934, with World War II on the horizon, writer Jacob Glatstein (1896–1971) traveled from his home in America to his native Poland to visit his dying mother. One of the foremost Yiddish poets of the day, he used his journey as the basis for two highly autobiographical novellas (translated as The Glatstein Chronicles) in which he intertwines childhood memories with observations of growing anti-Semitism in Europe.

Glatstein’s accounts “stretch like a tightrope across a chasm,” writes preeminent Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse in the Introduction. In Book One, Homeward Bound, the narrator, Yash, recounts his voyage to his birthplace in Poland and the array of international travelers he meets along the way. Book Two, Homecoming at Twilight, resumes after his mother’s funeral and ends with Yash’s impending return to the United States, a Jew with an American passport who recognizes the ominous history he is traversing.

The Glatstein Chronicles is at once insightful reportage of the year after Hitler came to power, a reflection by a leading intellectual on contemporary culture and events, and the closest thing we have to a memoir by the boy from Lublin, Poland, who became one of the finest poets of the twentieth century.

Editor Ruth Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University.

The late Norbert Guterman completed the first English translation of Book Two of The Glatstein Chronicles in 1962. Maier Deshell translated Book One. He is former editor of the Jewish Publication Society and translated (with Margaret Birstein) Yehoshue Perle’s Everyday Jews: Scenes from a Vanished Life, also for the New Yiddish Library.
In 1934, with World War II on the horizon, writer Jacob Glatstein (1896–1971) traveled from his home in America to his native Poland to visit his dying mother. One of the foremost Yiddish poets of the day, he used his journey as the basis for two highly autobiographical novellas (translated as The Glatstein Chronicles) in which he intertwines childhood memories with observations of growing anti-Semitism in Europe.

Glatstein’s accounts “stretch like a tightrope across a chasm,” writes preeminent Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse in the Introduction. In Book One, Homeward Bound, the narrator, Yash, recounts his voyage to his birthplace in Poland and the array of international travelers he meets along the way. Book Two, Homecoming at Twilight, resumes after his mother’s funeral and ends with Yash’s impending return to the United States, a Jew with an American passport who recognizes the ominous history he is traversing.

The Glatstein Chronicles is at once insightful reportage of the year after Hitler came to power, a reflection by a leading intellectual on contemporary culture and events, and the closest thing we have to a memoir by the boy from Lublin, Poland, who became one of the finest poets of the twentieth century.

Editor Ruth Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University.

The late Norbert Guterman completed the first English translation of Book Two of The Glatstein Chronicles in 1962. Maier Deshell translated Book One. He is former editor of the Jewish Publication Society and translated (with Margaret Birstein) Yehoshue Perle’s Everyday Jews: Scenes from a Vanished Life, also for the New Yiddish Library.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Oct 15, 2013
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10/23/2013

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Jacob Glatstein
THE GLATSTEIN CHRONICLES 
 
BOOK ONEHomeward BoundChapter 11
No sooner did the ship pull away from the dock than I instantly felt myself subject to maritime law. Only then did I begin tounderstand that which I couldn’t quite grasp when I was a law student, the necessity for a separate body of jurisprudencepertaining to the sea. For just as the moon holds sway over thetides, or, as some would have it, over the whole human psyche,so does the ocean have an imperceptible effect upon those who would cross it. Footsteps lighten, manners soften, voices lilt. Aboard ship one suffers minor hurt rather than inflict hurt onfellow passengers. Gestures become more polished, behaviormore formal. One lives under the mystical spell of the sea and behaves accordingly, altogether differently than on dry land.Parental admonitions that once went in one ear and out the
 
Jacob Glatstein
THE GLATSTEIN CHRONICLES 
other suddenly make sense. Everyone circles the deck, strollinglike lords. A fine, silken cord connects one man to his fellow,even his fellow female. The merest exchange of greetings—“Goodmorning, good year”—spans the gap. I also began to appreciatethe tenderness of the terms “shipboard brother” and “shipboardsister.” Nor did this metamorphosis occasion anxiety, because itaffected everyone to the same degree. Aboard ship, in contrast totheir alter egos on land, strangers find themselves tossedtogether, and yet, wonder of wonders, God’s world with itsmanifold souls stays in balance even here, where we tread softly and scarcely recognize the sounds of our own voices.I looked for a secluded corner, away from the throng, where I could get a grip on my excitement. The red, yellow, andgreen flares of the launches that accompanied our ship like someexotic marine vegetation receded farther and farther away,extending our circle of solitude. We had escaped, leaving behindall sentimental reminders of relatives and attachments to terrafirma. Now that the
Olympic
had pulled away from land, itformed its own little planet, with its own population, its own way of life, even its own invisible leader, the captain, whose existence you could deny without any damage to your peace of mind.I stood leaning against the railing of the deck and had theaudacity to cite myself. Somewhere I had written that the worldis divided into two camps: those with the wherewithal to traveland those condemned to staying put. This notion pleased menow that I was putting it to the test.Five young men were also leaning against the railing,looking back at the distant lights, the rank harbor smells stillfilling the air. They watched as the water thickened, turning

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